A Magazine for Parents and Teachers of Blind Children published by
the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults in partnership
with the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children.
Volume 32 Number 3 Summer 2013
Deborah Kent Stein, Editor
Copyright © 2013 American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults
For more information
about blindness and children contact:
National Organization of Parents of Blind Children
200 East Wells Street at Jernigan Place, Baltimore, MD 21230 • (410) 659-9314
www.nfb.org/nopbc • [email protected] • [email protected]
Volume 32 Number 3 Summer 2013
The Letter of the Law: How Decisive Correspondence Can Provide Greater Literacy
Opportunities for Blind and Visually Impaired Children
by Krystal Guillory
Adventure Walks: Helping Your Child Who Is Blind Move Around Outdoors
by Susan Shier Lowry
Who Is Teaching Your Child Braille? National Certification
in Literary Braille for Teachers of the Visually Impaired
by Casey L. Robertson
Hands-on Science: Experiences in the STEM Subjects for Students
in Kindergarten and Elementary School
by Dr. Lillian Rankel and Marilyn Winograd
eTouchSciences Apps: A New Way to Interact with Science and Math Content
by Dr. Marjorie Darrah
Testing the Current
An Interview with Amy Bower
From Eyes to Hands: Introducing Braille to a Student with Low Vision
by Heather Field
My Life As a High Partial
by Rose Sloan
Orientation and Mobility, One Instructor's Perspective
by Merry-Noel Chamberlain
Starting the Transition Conversation: What's Next?
by Lydia Schuck
From Requirement to Desire: Why Community Service Is Important
by Kaiti Shelton
What Worked and What Didn't
by Rick Fox
SPORTS AND RECREATION
Finishing Is Winning
by José Nogueras
Out of the Box
by Jerry Whittle
APH Quota Funds: How to Access Free Educational
Materials for Blind and Deaf-Blind Students
by Amber Bobnar
PROGRAMS AND CONFERENCES
The Coolest Camp on the Map
by Ana Martinez Larumbe
It's a Happy Story: The 2013 Braille Summit, A Parent's Perspective
by Penny Duffy
Strive for Independence
by Rena Smith
News from Parents of Blind Children of New Jersey
by Carol Castellano
New NOPBC Board Elected
Integrating Print and Braille: A Recipe for Literacy
Edited by Sharon Maneki
Reviewed by Lynda Zwinger
ODDS AND ENDS
Future Reflections is a magazine for parents and teachers of blind children. It is published quarterly by the American Action Fund for Blind Children and Adults in partnership with the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children. Future Reflections is available free of charge to subscriber addresses in the US in regular print and audio formats and via email, or it can be read online on the NFB website. Canadian subscriptions are $35.00 per year, and other foreign subscriptions are $75.00 US per year. Checks should be made payable to the National Federation of the Blind and sent to the NFB, Attention Future Reflections, 200 E. Wells Street at Jernigan Place, Baltimore, MD 21230.
For an email subscription to Future Reflections, visit <www.nfbcal.org/listserv-signup.html> and follow the instructions.
To subscribe to Future Reflections in print or audio format, send an email to [email protected]. Put "Subscribe to FR" in the subject line and include your preferred medium in the body. Please include your address, whether you are the parent of a blind child, a teacher, or other subscriber. If you are a parent, include your child's name and birth date.
Are you the parent of a blind or visually impaired child? Don’t know where to turn?
Founded in 1983, the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) is a membership organization of parents, educators, and friends of blind children reaching out to give each other vital support, encouragement, and information. We have thousands of members in all 50 states plus Washington, DC, and Puerto Rico.
The NOPBC offers hope, encouragement, information, and resources for parents of blind or visually impaired children. NOPBC provides emotional support and a network of other families dealing with the same challenges you are facing. We also provide information, training, and resources to empower you to take an active role in guiding your child’s development and education. We can provide information on your child’s rights and on the laws and legislative issues that will enable you and your child to become strong and effective advocates.
Have you ever wondered what your blind or visually impaired child will be capable of when he or she grows up? The answer to that question is that blindness/visual impairment does not have to stop your child from doing anything he or she wants to do. We can connect you with other families and blind adults who can serve as positive mentors and role models. They can teach you the attitudes and techniques that will enable your child to become independent and to succeed in life.
What is different about the NOPBC?
Our status as a division of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), the largest and most influential organization of blind people in the world, provides many benefits. Our members are well informed about the societal, legislative, and technological issues that affect blind people. We also enjoy the resources, support, and expertise of fifty thousand blind people who can serve as mentors and role models for us and our children. Finally, as our children grow up, they have the Federation to belong to.
No other organization for parents of blind/visually impaired children offers more programs, activities, and training to families, children, and youth. One of our most exciting activities is our annual conference. Every year since it was established, the NOPBC has conducted an annual conference for parents and teachers of blind children as part of the national convention of the NFB. The program has grown to include five exciting days of workshops, training sessions, activities for all family members, including sighted siblings, and countless opportunities to meet blind adults and other families and children from around the country.
What is the mission of the NOPBC?
The purpose of the NOPBC is to:
• create a climate of opportunity for blind children in home and society.
• provide information and support to parents of blind children.
• facilitate the sharing of experience and concerns among parents of blind children.
• develop and expand resources available to parents and their children.
• help parents of blind children gain understanding and perspective through partnership and contact with blind adults.
• function as an integral part of the National Federation of the Blind in its ongoing effort to achieve equality and opportunity for all blind persons.
Most states have an NOPBC affiliate chapter. You can find your state chapter at <www.nopbc.org>. If your state does not have a chapter and you would like to start one, please contact us. We may be able to offer training and other assistance to start a state NOPBC chapter.
What are the programs, activities, publications, and resources of the NOPBC?
• National and State Parent Seminars and Conferences
• Future Reflections Magazine
• NOPBC Website
• Books and Videos
• Blindkid & Other Listservs
• Early Childhood Conferences
• Pop-Up IEP Website
• Braille Readers Are Leaders Contest
• Slate Pals Pen Pal Program
• AAF Free Braille Books Program
• Share Braille Book Exchange
• Writing Contests
• Junior Science Academy
• Youth Slam High School Science Academy
• National Center for Blind Youth in Science Web site
• NFB-NEWSLINE® Newspaper Service
• Where the Blind Work Website
• Free White Cane Program
• Blindness 411 Facebook Group for Teens
• NFB-LINK Mentoring Program
• Scholarship Program
• Straight Talk about Blindness Video Series
• Parent Leadership Program (PLP)
by Krystal Guillory, M.Ed., TVI, NCLB
From the Editor: For decades the National Federation of the Blind has fought to ensure that blind children receive proper instruction in the use of Braille. On June 19, 2013, the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) of the US Department of Education issued an open letter about Braille instruction to professionals and policymakers across the country. This "Dear Colleague" letter marks a decisive moment in the Federation's long struggle, and it is a tool that will help parents and teachers fight for Braille instruction in the years ahead. In this article Krystal Guillory, a teacher of blind students in Louisiana, summarizes the letter and explains its significance. You can read the letter in full at <www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/memosdcltrs/index.html>.
Is it more important to obey the letter or the spirit of the law? Discussions of this question can grow highly charged, as those with opposing viewpoints become increasingly insistent that their opinions are correct. In the interpretation of the United States Constitution, there are the strict constructionists and their opponents--those who insist that too literal an interpretation of the framers' words is out of step with the postmodern era. In the realm of theology, differing views abound on the interpretation and meaning of the Scripture.
These vociferous and lively debates are a healthy part of our democratic society. However, they are not always helpful, and they can be the agents of confusion. They can erect needless, potentially harmful barriers of miscommunication and division. There are instances when a presiding entity must wade through the noise and crosstalk to provide clarification of intent.
That is exactly what a June 19, 2013, Dear Colleague letter from the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) of the US Department of Education has done with respect to Braille instruction in programs for students from birth to twenty-one years of age. The letter has been heralded as a potential game-changer by those with an understanding of the critical importance of Braille literacy. As a teacher, I appreciate the letter's direct, no-nonsense language, which I will highlight in the following paragraphs.
The Dear Colleague letter is intended to provide guidance to states and public agencies, reaffirming the importance of Braille as a literacy tool for blind and visually impaired students. It clarifies the circumstances in which Braille instruction should be provided and reiterates the scope of an evaluation required to guide the decisions of IEP teams. The letter also identifies resources that are designed to strengthen the capacity of state and local personnel to meet the needs of students who are blind or visually impaired.
In essence, fitting it all into the proverbial nutshell, OSERS is not seeking to change policy or comment on newly adopted legislation. Rather, this correspondence speaks to requirements under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that have been in effect for nearly two decades. Within the framework of IDEA, the letter calls state and local education agencies to account for their decisions to provide or withhold Braille instruction for blind and visually impaired students. It states clearly the pivotal role played by a child's IEP team, which of course includes his or her first teachers, the parents.
The letter begins by noting the indispensable role of Braille as a literacy tool by and for the blind. It goes on to cite the IDEA 1997 requirements governing the IEP team's decision-making process as to whether or not a child will receive Braille instruction. The language makes clear that not only a student's current reading and writing skills and appropriate learning media must be considered, but his or her future needs as well. This point is of particular importance for children with progressive vision loss--those who may not seem to need Braille at present, but whose prognosis indicates diminishing field and/or visual acuity, children who will certainly need Braille in the months and years to come.
Keep in mind that these requirements are not new. They have been in US law since 1997. The Dear Colleague letter also reminds us that blind and visually impaired students are protected by two pieces of legislation in addition to IDEA--namely, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Nevertheless, either through willful circumvention or unintentional oversight, some state and local education agencies, and, in some instances, families themselves, have ignored these provisions.
One notable way the provisions of the law are circumvented is through the "Cadillac of services" argument. School districts that use this jargon claim that, while they are required to buy a car for a student with disabilities (that is, provide services), they are not required to give the student a Cadillac. This approach has been used to delay or deny services and/or the purchase of assistive technology such as a Braille notetaker. The OSERS letter gives parents and other advocates ammunition against this potentially harmful viewpoint by reaffirming the right of blind and visually impaired students to equal access to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) and by noting the role of Braille in the same.
"Despite the wide range of vision difficulties and the varying adaptations to vision loss in the population of blind and visually impaired students," the letter states, "Braille has long been a very effective reading and writing medium for many of them. Research has shown that knowledge of Braille provides numerous tangible and intangible benefits, including increased likelihood of obtaining productive employment and heightened self-esteem. Given these benefits, it is important that states and their public agencies ensure the appropriate implementation of the IDEA requirement regarding Braille instruction." The National Federation of the Blind does not view Braille instruction and the equal access it brings as a proverbial Cadillac. The above quote indicates in no uncertain terms that the United States Department of Education is in agreement with this belief.
As stated in its purpose, the letter also highlights several resources by which Braille and other educational materials can be procured for blind and visually impaired students. These include the National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC), the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), and Bookshare. The specifics regarding funding and other logistical details given in the letter are outside the scope of this article. However, because of the intersection of Braille and technology (e.g., refreshable Braille displays, Braille embossers), we are living in an age in which access to Braille materials has never been greater. All things being equal, future access to a wide range of instructional materials in Braille promises to increase and become more timely in the coming years.
Though these developments are indeed heartening, the sad fact is that only about ten percent of our blind and visually impaired students are receiving Braille instruction--a distressing statistic to be sure. What good are instructional materials in Braille to kids who cannot read Braille?
In conclusion, the OSERS Dear Colleague letter states, "Braille is a very effective reading and writing medium for many blind and visually impaired persons, and research has shown that knowledge of Braille provides numerous tangible and intangible benefits. Therefore, it is imperative that IEP teams for blind and visually impaired students provide for instruction in Braille and the use of Braille for those students, unless, based on a thorough and rigorous evaluation, the IEP team determines that instruction in Braille or the use of Braille is not appropriate for a particular student."
While this language is very clear, there may be entities that attempt to deny Braille instruction to children who need it. One must arm oneself with the knowledge necessary to combat such injustice. The members of the National Federation of the Blind know firsthand the transformative power of Braille and the doors thrown open to those who are truly literate. Make no mistake; Braille is literacy for the blind.
As an educator, it is imperative that I endeavor to ensure equal access for my students. While I have been fortunate to work in very supportive settings, I realize that many of my colleagues throughout the country are not so fortunate. To those parents and teachers battling service denials or delays, I say, "Keep fighting! Never give up." I urge you please to stay connected to the National Federation of the Blind. Our collective action will lead to victory.
I am grateful to the Department of Education for stating so eloquently in an official document what we know to be true. We often say that Braille Rocks! Whether in hardcopy or through the use of refreshable Braille, Braille means equal access to knowledge, a commodity truly without price.
I will close by saying it yet again, and I hope you will join me in doing so--Braille ROCKS!
by Susan Shier Lowry, COMS, CTVI
Reprinted with permission from <www.wonderbaby.org>.
From the Editor: Hands-on experience is an essential component in the education of a blind child. While sighted children may gather information by watching videos or gazing from car windows, blind kids need plenty of direct experience through touch in order to build basic concepts. The opportunity to touch objects can also stimulate a child's interest in movement and exploration. In this article, Susan Shier Lowry suggests ways to give young blind children hands-on experience in the outdoors.
Adventure walks are outdoor explorations and field trips turned into learning opportunities. Children who are blind or have low vision often miss important information about the world around them, especially in outdoor settings and public places. By helping them get "up close and personal" with objects you can improve their understanding, increase language opportunities, and enrich social exchanges with family and friends. A full memory bank of touching, hearing, smelling, and looking, established outdoors and in the community, will build important concepts for further classroom learning. Also, children who are blind increase their tactile tolerance and curiosity this way. Children with low vision enjoy the same benefits and expand their understanding of what they see, therefore improving their functional vision.
Get outdoors on a daily basis to explore, touch, smell, and look at a variety of natural and human-made items in the family yard, schoolyard, or playground. Some examples of things your child can examine are shrubs, flowers, trees, mailbox, bird feeder, sprinkler, family car, grass, sidewalk, gravel, mulch, and play equipment.
Take your child often on outings to parks, stores, and community events. Offer extra time to look, touch, name, and smell a huge variety of common items in these settings. Keep in mind that your blind or visually impaired child is probably unable to see in any detail most of what is around him. Even a child with relatively high partial vision may only be able to recognize objects up to three feet away.
Pick up your child or get her close to an object, providing the option of touch. Tell her what the object is and touch it yourself. Make a natural sound with the object if possible, giving your child lots of time to look and listen.
Repeat these walks often. Regular exposure should increase your child's interest and tolerance. Move away to honor any hesitation shown by your child, but offer the experience again soon.
Use your child's preferred mode of movement to explore outdoors, such as independent walking, human guide, carrying, or wheeling her in a wagon. When possible, bring your child to the object. If not, bring the object to her.
If your child walks, encourage him to move freely all over the yard or playground. While you follow closely to supervise, provide verbal interpretation of surfaces, sounds, and objects. If it is safe for him to do so, let him contact obstacles with his hands or cane instead of guiding him around them. Tell him what he is about to touch.
As your child explores, take note of what she especially enjoys and return to these locations and activities later. She may not always prefer the play equipment you have thoughtfully selected and set up! For a time she may prefer splashing in the puddle at the top of the driveway, scraping her feet in the gravel, or turning on the garden hose. Use whatever she loves most to make movement and exploration outdoors meaningful and fun.
For a child who is anxious, or for a child who is not yet stable enough to walk well over the ground surface, provide human guide or hand-holding while encouraging him to choose where to go. Over time encourage him to release your hand more and more. Walking over uneven surfaces outdoors increases balance and stability.
A toddler will often plop into a sitting position when walking over an uneven outdoor surface. Allow this fall to happen if you know your child is not likely to get hurt, and then encourage him to stand back up without your help. This may require him to put his hands down on the surface (grass, mulch, sand, etc.) and push into standing. This can be a good experience for building upper body strength and increasing tactile awareness and tolerance.
For infants and children who do not move independently yet, provide a small blanket for sitting in the grass, sand, or mulch. Let your child find these surfaces along the edge of the blanket in her own time. It is fine for her to touch and then withdraw. Over repeated trials she is likely to begin moving to the new texture more and more on her own, if she is not required to touch it.
Our children often need extra motivation to play outdoors. At first the outdoors may only represent an overwhelming collection of unfamiliar sensations such as ground textures, air temperatures, breezes against the skin, and the sounds of animals, lawn care, and traffic. Repeated experiences with enjoyable activities and play items may give your child a reason to explore the outdoors. These experiences might include wading in a pool, playing on swings, riding on Grandpa's tractor, washing the dog, putting gravel in a pail, playing in the leaves, chasing a beach ball, pushing a cart, riding a wheeled vehicle in the driveway, or walking to the car instead of being carried.
When setting up play equipment and wading pools, consider locating them within a few feet of the door of the house or classroom. Leave them predictably positioned. If using two or three different pieces, position them four to six feet apart, and again leave them in the original arrangement. This way your child can learn to move to the area independently, and then to move from one piece of equipment to another. Ask your child's O&M specialist for suggestions regarding the actual route and arrangement.
Children who are light sensitive, or photophobic, can enjoy playing outdoors with some simple precautions. Hats with broad brims, sun-protecting eye shades, and play areas under shade trees or in the shadow of a building can make a big difference. Your O&M specialist can help determine appropriate light protection and offer suggestions about increasing your child's tolerance for them.
by Casey L. Robertson, NCLB
From the Editor: Casey Robertson, a teacher of blind and visually impaired students in Mississippi, received the Distinguished Educator of Blind Students Award at the 2012 convention of the National Federation of the Blind. In this article she explains why it is important for teachers to become certified in literary Braille by taking the National Certification in Literary Braille exam.
Would it surprise you to know that your child's teacher of the visually impaired (TVI) may have had only minimal training in Braille in college? Would you be alarmed to learn that he or she may not have had any hands-on training using a slate and stylus, and that the teacher may not have taught Braille to a child in years? Are you aware that the requirements for becoming a TVI vary dramatically from state to state?
Depending on where you live and the services offered by your school district, you may find it challenging to obtain appropriate services for your blind or low-vision child. As a parent, you may become lost in a web of terms such as certification, competency, proficiency, and standards. You may struggle to understand what these words mean for your child's education. You know that your child needs Braille, but how can you determine whether the TVI is providing quality services? Recently there has been much discussion among professionals in the field of blindness and low vision about the services our students receive. Questions have been raised about who provides services, the training of TVIs, and teachers' level of proficiency in Braille.
As of 2011, forty university programs in thirty-two states prepare students and/or general education teachers to become TVIs. Each university program sets its own curriculum requirements and criteria for a level of proficiency in Braille. Some programs require minimal Braille instruction, while others require rigorous Braille instruction and a demonstration of proficiency. Once the student has completed the courses required in a university training program, there is typically a state test to certify him or her to teach blind and visually impaired students. It may be a test created by the state, or it may be one that was adopted from elsewhere. Passing grades and the test itself are not consistent from one state to the next. For example, one state's passing score may be set at 80 percent, while another state's passing score may be as low as 60 percent. Clearly, there is no consistency from program to program or state to state about what a teacher's proficiency in Braille really means. The road to certification is confusing and inconsistent.
Parents can be encouraged by the work of the National Blindness Professional Certification Board (NBPCB), which has developed a national standard for Braille proficiency. The NBPCB administers the National Certification in Literary Braille (NCLB) exam as a five-year renewable certification awarded to those who successfully pass all four sections. The exam includes sections on transcribing Braille using a Braillewriter, transcribing Braille using a slate and stylus, and proofreading Braille for errors. It also contains multiple-choice questions on Braille rules and usage. Anyone can take the exam; however, it is intended primarily for current and future teachers of Braille. By adding the designation of NCLB certification, administered by a nationally recognized credentialing organization, teachers will unequivocally demonstrate that they possess knowledge and skills in the use of the Braille code beyond the rudimentary level. Teachers can recertify every five years, demonstrating that they are continuing their proficiency in Braille and have not digressed in their skills.
Parents should encourage their child's teacher to become NCLB certified. A number of professions, including teaching and medicine, regard voluntary certification as a way for individuals to show that they possess a high standard of expertise. The existence of certification developed in these professions is indicative proof of the need to meet specific standards that are uniformly applied to those engaging in specialized fields. Why should students not receive services from teachers who have earned a distinguishing certification?
The goal of the NCLB, like that of any other certification process, is to:
The NCLB is now being offered in all fifty states, depending on interest and availability of test takers. For more information on testing dates and test resource materials, please visit <www.nbpcb.org/nclb>. Expect the best from your child's teacher, and encourage her or him to join the many professionals in the field who are becoming nationally certified in literary Braille.
by Dr. Lillian Rankel and Marilyn Winograd
From the Editor: Marilyn Winograd, a teacher of the visually impaired, and Dr. Lillian Rankel, a science teacher, work together to share techniques and strategies for including students who are blind or have low vision in all aspects of science education. They have given presentations to teachers of the visually impaired and parents of blind children across the country, and led hands-on workshops with children of all ages and abilities. Lillian and Marilyn co-authored the book Out Of Sight Science Experiments, published in Braille and large print by National Braille Press. The book contains thirty-two step-by-step experiments for blind youngsters to conduct at home with family and friends or as part of a science fair project. They have also co-authored various articles on adapting chemistry lessons and labs for a blind student. Resources and more information about their work can be found at <www.sciencefortheblind.com>.
With planning, children from kindergarten to fourth grade can participate actively in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) activities. Only through participation will children learn that the STEM subjects are fun. When given themed materials for hands-on exploration at their own pace, blind and visually impaired children can be exposed to STEM at an early age.
The experiments we present encourage a multisensory approach to learning, allowing kinesthetic opportunities. Children who are blind or have low vision can learn cause and effect through active participation rather than passive listening. Exposure to STEM at a young age will lead to integration into the classroom and encourage success in future studies.
What objects will roll down a ramp? A ramp can be made from wooden boards or cardboard, and it can be used to encourage discovery. Give your child or student a tray or box of random objects (water bottle caps, vitamin bottles, erasers, toy cars, balls, stones, sticks, crayons, shells, etc.) Have him/her guess which ones will roll or slide down the ramp. A block placed at the bottom of the ramp will prevent objects from rolling away. Once the child has made his guesses, have him try out his theories and discover how many he got right.
Gravity moves the objects down the ramp. As the ramp is made steeper, more objects may roll or slide down.
One more bit of information about ramps. A ramp is a simple machine. The Egyptians built slopes (ramps) thousands of years ago in order to drag huge stones up to the tops of the pyramids. Try lifting a heavy toolbox or suitcase. Then try to slide the heavy object up the ramp instead of lifting it. Simple machines make work easier.
Did you know that no two snowflakes are the same? A snowflake is an ice crystal that has six symmetrical arms, forming a hexagonal shape. To make a tactile representation of a snowflake, fold a circular piece of paper in half and then fold it into thirds. Next, cut triangle shapes into the folded sides of the paper to make a snowflake with six arms. Once the snowflake is made, dip the ends of six Q-tips into glitter glue. Place one on each arm of the paper snowflake to make a decorative, hexagonal snow crystal.
How can you tell which way the wind is blowing? That's simple! Make a headband with wind strips attached to it. This homemade weather vane is easy to make. Cut a strip of construction paper to be used as the headband. Next, cut four strips of newspaper, one inch wide and twenty-two inches long. Attach the strips to the construction paper headband, using glue or staples. Put the windstrip band on your child's head and go outside to find out how strong the wind is blowing and from which direction it comes. A compass with tactile or large print markings showing north, east, south, and west may be used to introduce the concept of cardinal directions. If there is no wind blowing outside, standing in front of a fan in the house will work just as well.
How can you listen to a heartbeat if you don't have a stethoscope? Empty paper towel tubes are great tools for amplifying sound. Have your child place one end of a paper towel tube to his/her ear and the other end to a friend's chest. Once she hears the heartbeat, have the friend jump up and down fifteen times. Listen to the heartbeat again to see if there is any change.
Encourage your child to experiment with the tube. Listen to a wind-up kitchen timer or clock. Try the tube on the refrigerator and other noisy things around the house.
Have you ever built a house made of food? People build homes throughout the world using local materials. In the far north, where the only building material is snow, igloos are made from blocks of snow to keep a family warm and safe. A child can build an igloo using a small plastic container or an empty plastic bowl (such as the kind applesauce comes in) as a frame. Little marshmallows can be used instead of ice, and marshmallow fluff can serve as cement.
Turn the container upside down and cover the outside with marshmallow fluff or white cake icing. Press the small marshmallows into the sticky covering. A pretzel stick can be added for a chimney on the igloo roof.
When people live in the forest, they can chop down trees and use the logs to build a house. To build a log cabin, you will need a square plastic food container as a frame, cake icing for cement, and pretzel rods for logs. First, turn the container upside down and cover the outside with icing. Then stick the logs (pretzels) horizontally to the sides of the house. Small square cookies can be used for windows and a door. Graham crackers can make a good roof. Again, a small pretzel stick can represent a chimney.
Do magnets attract through water? Place random items (paper clip, ice cream stick, lid from a jar, bottle cap, plastic spoon, aluminum foil, etc.) on a tray or in a shallow bowl of water. Will any of these objects be attracted through the water? Have your child guess which things they think will stick to the magnet from under the water. Then have him move the magnet back and forth just below the water's surface to prove or disprove his theories.
All children can actively participate in some level of STEM activities. With constantly changing technology, career options in the STEM fields are increasing all the time. Spend some family time together now. Involving your child in fun and educational activities at an early age encourages a "can do" attitude that will carry over into other areas of life as well.
by Dr. Marjorie Darrah
From the Editor: The NFB is deeply committed to enhancing opportunities for blind students to study science, technology, engineering, and math--fields in which content is often presented in highly visual ways. In this article, Dr. Marjorie Darrah of eTouchSciences explains how the emerging field of haptic technology offers exciting possibilities for nonvisual access to scientific information.
Topics in math and science are often presented in very visual ways such as diagrams and simulations. In many instances these visual presentations are not easily accessible to students who are blind or have visual impairments. An innovative technology called computer haptics provides a way to offer additional information through the sense of touch to supplement information being provided through visual and auditory means. By using a computer and a peripheral device called a haptic force-feedback controller, students can virtually explore three-dimensional shapes, receiving tactile and kinesthetic sensations. These sensations can convey information such as shape, weight, viscosity, texture, vibration, magnetism, and elasticity. eTouchSciences is creating computer applications, or apps, that utilize this technology to help middle-school students learn math and science concepts.
The eTouchSciences system uses haptic hardware to provide sensory feedback that simulates physical properties and forces. Just as a monitor enables sighted users to see computer-generated images, and as audio speakers allow users to hear sounds, the haptic device makes it possible for blind or visually impaired users to feel force feedback and textures while they manipulate virtual two- and three-dimensional objects. The haptic device allows the user to interact with a virtual object, such as a cell membrane or a feature on the surface of a planet, using the sense of touch.
Paired with the eTouchSciences applications is the Novint Falcon 3D touch controller, an external haptic device. The Novint Falcon is nine inches wide by nine inches tall. At the center of the device is a round grip attached to the body by three arms. This grip can move four inches in any of three different directions: vertically, horizontally, and forward and backward. The Novint Falcon is easy to set up by connecting a cord to the USB port on a computer and plugging it into the wall. When students use the eTouchSciences apps, they move the Novint Falcon grip, allowing them to feel force feedback from the device that simulates the objects and textures that are being displayed on the computer monitor, or allowing them to feel forces that are being simulated, such as gravity. For example, when students are learning about the differing gravities on the planets, they can move the grip around to feel the shape of a bowling ball. Then they can press a button on the grip to pick up the ball and feel its weight on that particular planet.
A variety of computer-based applications cover selected math and science topics. Each application includes a lesson guide for teachers. The guide outlines the content standards that the app will address. It also contains guiding questions for the app, an overview of the lesson, and suggestions of ways to use the lesson in the classroom. Each app is a complete lesson that covers one or two of the national standards in math or science. Each app has full audio description that explains the scenes and teaches the lesson. There are also high-contrast graphics for students with low vision.
The feature that differentiates these computer-based applications is that each scene has elements that can be felt. Using the haptic controller, the student can explore the object that appears on the screen and is being discussed in the audio description. Students have a true multisensory experience without any additional work on the part of the teacher or parents. Here are some examples of the haptic-based computer applications that are now available.
Students learn the three parts of an atom (electron, proton, and neutron), distinguishing them through various forces and textures. Students then interact with the atoms of three different elements. They learn that protons and neutrons are in the atom's nucleus, while electrons are in rings around the outside of the atom. They can feel and count the number of parts in the hydrogen, carbon, and nitrogen atoms while receiving audio cues and hearing interesting facts.
Students learn about mass and weight and how they are different. They feel how the weight of a bowling ball changes on the moon and different terrestrial planets, while its mass stays the same. Students can use the haptic device to feel the size and shape of the bowling ball, and they can lift it to feel its weight on the terrestrial planets and the moon.
Students feel a mountain that is an inactive volcano before it erupts. Then they feel the same mountain vibrating to get the sense that something is happening under the surface. The volcano then erupts, and students can feel that the top is different. They are then given a cutaway model of the volcano to feel in order to detect the layers inside.
Students learn about all the parts of a plant cell. After exploring the full model to learn what organelles are, students can press a button to explore a larger model of each organelle. With the use of textures and shapes, each organelle feels different. The audio description explains the function of each organelle in the cell.
Students learn about the volume of a cylinder, cone, and sphere by being given the challenge of making ice cream cones for their friends. The lesson begins with a cylinder-shaped container. Students have to compute how much ice cream is in the container and then how many ice cream cones it will fill. They learn and use three formulas to calculate the volume of 3D shapes.
The developers of the haptic-based math and science materials believe that haptic technology should be viewed as an assistive technology to deliver math and science content. Given the need for access to certain types of data and information by students with visual impairments, haptic-based software may prove to be a successful alternative. Computer haptics provide additional stimulation for students with visual impairments and engage another learning modality.
The applications have been tested by experts, and they are making their way into the classroom. The many teachers who served as adult experts agree that the haptic device and the haptic-based materials can be used in a classroom setting and will be accessible to students who are blind or visually impaired. Usability and feasibility testing also revealed that the haptic device is easy to set up and master. Furthermore, this phase of testing revealed and helped solidify best practices for developing the apps for the target audience.
Several of the applications have undergone extensive student testing as well. These preliminary results show promise for the haptic-based apps as valuable classroom materials for middle school students who are blind or visually impaired. The testing consisted of a pre-test and post-test on the material. Students were given a pre-test to determine their level of knowledge on a topic before using the application. Next they were allowed to play with the application on their own. Assistance was given only if a technical issue arose. Students were then given a post-test on the material. The pre- and post-tests were analyzed, using a paired t-test. In all cases there were significant learning gains from pre-test to post-test. Students from the states of West Virginia, California, Texas, and Georgia, as well as students from British Columbia, Canada, have participated in classroom testing.
The haptic device and haptic-based software described in this article are very affordable, with a device costing about $200 and the apps costing about $10 each. This technology can be used to supplement tactile graphics, 3D models, and verbal description in the math and science classroom, bringing great benefits to students. Haptics-based technology can be a new tool for teachers and students to add to their toolboxes. Parents can also use it with their children at home.
eTouchSciences plans to continue to release apps in various areas of math and science. The company will work with teachers who submit ideas for applications that they would like to see developed. You can find our products at <www.etouchsciences.com> and learn more about how things work from our product video at <www.youtube.com/watch?v=4C8o3IfDkgY>.
[This project has been funded in part by the IES SBIR program at the US Department of Education under Contract Number ED-IES-11-C-0028. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the US Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the US government.]
An Interview with Amy Bower
From the Editor: A few years ago I read a book called Seven Tenths: Love, Piracy and Science at Sea, by David Fisichella (Leapfrog Press, 2010). The author recounted his adventures on shipboard expeditions with his wife, Amy Bower, a blind oceanographer. Recently I had the pleasure of conducting an interview with Amy herself for Future Reflections.
Deborah Kent Stein: What exactly is oceanography?
Amy Bower: When most people think of oceanography, they think of marine biology, the study of living things in the sea. Actually, oceanography brings together many sciences and disciplines. It includes nearly all of the fields of science: chemistry, physics, geology, biology. Today the ocean's role in the climate system is much more fully recognized, and scientists are studying how the ocean interacts with the atmosphere. So oceanography is truly a global science.
DKS: What is your particular area of interest?
AB: I am a physical oceanographer, which means that I study the physical forces that make water move. I have a background in physics.
DKS: How did you become interested in oceanography?
AB: In high school I discovered that I was very interested in physics and math. I chose a physics major as an undergraduate at Tufts University, but I wasn't excited about mainstream physics. My interest lay in the area of geophysics, which includes meteorology, oceanography, and the study of the earth's mantle. While I was in college I learned about a program called Sea Semester (not to be confused with another program called Semester at Sea). Sea Semester was a program that gave undergraduates the chance to study all aspects of the ocean, even literature and maritime history. The idea is to help citizens become good stewards of the ocean. That program got me hooked. After I got my undergraduate degree I enrolled at the University of Rhode Island in Narragansett, which has an extensive oceanography program.
DKS: At what point did you develop a visual impairment?
AB: While I was in college I started to have trouble adjusting to changes in lighting. I noticed that I was having a hard time driving at night. At a routine eye exam my doctor discovered that I had some abnormal blind spots. Eventually I was diagnosed with two progressive eye conditions, macular degeneration and retinitis pigmentosa (RP).
DKS: How did you handle the diagnosis?
AB: It was emotionally devastating at first. I didn't know anyone who was blind or visually impaired. I didn't know how much vision I was going to lose or how fast it was all going to happen. A vision specialist introduced me to the CCTV, which helped a lot with reading. I knew I loved the work I was doing, and I made up my mind to take it one day at a time.
DKS: What adaptations do you find helpful in your work today?
AB: As my vision declines I continue finding ways to do my research. I've become a real technology geek, always looking for the next good thing. I access some print materials with a scanner. I do most of my work on the computer: programming, reading and writing articles, and reviewing manuscripts. I use a screen reader, and I can still use magnification to some extent. I've had some Braille instruction, but I'm not very fluent. Braille is great for labeling things and sometimes for notes. I love the iPhone with all its accessible features! It's great for taking notes in meetings, and the calendar is a huge help.
DKS: For travel do you use a cane or a guide dog?
AB: I have a guide dog, and she's a great help. When I'm on shipboard on an expedition, I use a cane. Getting around on a ship is really pretty easy, because every vessel is laid out more or less the same way. Everything has its set place.
DKS: Where are you employed?
AB: I work at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI). It's a private research institution, and it has a graduate education program with MIT. WHOI is what's called a "soft money institution," which means that the scientists who work there have to bring in grant money to fund their salaries as well as their research. Oceanographic expeditions are very expensive, and it can take years to raise enough money to launch a new project. About 80 percent of our research funding comes from federal grants, and the rest comes from private foundations. Only about half a dozen nations have the resources to fund oceanographic research on a global scale.
DKS: What are some of the projects you've been involved with?
AB: In 2001 I took part in a research project to study currents coming out of the Red Sea. This is an ocean region that hardly has been studied at all, partly because of the political situation with the countries in that part of the world. It's not a friendly place for researchers from western nations to work. But we got our project funded, and we wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. We went twice that year, in March and again in August. Travel is a great perk in oceanography. Before setting out on the first trip, my husband and I went on a safari in South Africa. Then we went north, met our ship in Kenya, and ended up in the Seychelles Islands in the Indian Ocean. That expedition went very smoothly. The second expedition was a different story. On August 31, eighteen miles off the coast of Somalia, we had an encounter with pirates. They chased our ship and fired grenades at us. It was very scary! Fortunately they were in a small boat, and our captain was able to outrun them. They chased us for a while and gave up. No one was injured. Then, less than two weeks later, came the attack on the World Trade Center. It was very traumatic to be away from home during those frightening days, and we had a hard time getting back.
DKS: What are your plans for future research?
AB: I'm going to be part of a large international project to study currents in the far northern Atlantic. These currents are very closely related to changes in the earth's climate. We know that the atmosphere affects currents and, in turn, currents affect the atmosphere. We're trying to learn more about this relationship. I will be releasing floats to measure currents and water temperature. The floats are hollow, sealed containers, each one about six feet long. I'll also be anchoring sound beacons to the ocean floor. These will be used to track the floats underwater. The floats are equipped with instruments called hydrophones to hear the sound beacons. After two years of drifting with the currents, the floats pop to the surface and transmit the acoustic information via satellite. Then we reconstruct the trajectory of each float. There are about a hundred and twenty floats drifting around, and there are ten sound beacons.
DKS: Which countries are involved in this project besides the United States?
AB: We'll be working with scientists from Canada, The Netherlands, Germany, and the UK. It's a long-term project, stretching over ten years. A lot of the variations in the ocean don't have anything to do with climate. We need a profile created over a number of years in order to construct the big picture. A project like this has never been carried out in the North Atlantic before. Several ships will be involved. Some have already been launched. The US ship will be deployed in 2014.
DKS: I imagine you must need to examine and create a lot of maps and charts and diagrams. Do you use any sort of tactile graphics?
AB: I'm excited about some of the developments in the tactile graphics field. They're very promising, especially for students in middle school and high school. Unfortunately, most of the methods that are available at this point aren't refined enough to help people working at more advanced levels. For instance, I need to produce and view very complex graphics. In the course of one day I might make ten variations to a graphic I'm working on. As my vision becomes less reliable, I use human readers more and more. I think ultimately that haptic interfaces with touch screens may be the answer.
DKS: Have you been able to work with any of the companies that develop scientific graphing programs? Are any of them interested in improving accessibility?
AB: There's a Java-based program called MATLAB that is kind of the gold standard for data analysis in science and engineering. So far the program isn't as accessible as it could be, and the developers haven't been very responsive when I've tried to talk to them about that. But I'm still working on it.
DKS: Has WHOI been open to working around accommodations with you?
AB: WHOI has always been highly supportive. They provide whatever services and adaptive equipment I need. They provide salary support for clerical help, so I have someone available to help me fill out forms. They also pay someone to provide support with my technology. That person is on call for troubleshooting. I don't need a lot of time with these support people overall. They're very part-time employees. Hiring them doesn't cost WHOI very much, but having them available makes a gigantic difference for me. I bring in a lot of grant money, so I more than offset the cost of my accommodations.
DKS: What do you like to do when you're not working?
AB: I've just started to study the cello. My teacher is using the Suzuki Method, so I learn mostly by listening. I have an eleven-year-old daughter we adopted from Guatemala. So when I'm not working, my family keeps me pretty busy.
DKS: Would you encourage blind and visually impaired young people to study oceanography?
AB: I would, most definitely. It's a vast field with all sorts of possibilities. In fact, another blind oceanographer and I have just applied for a grant to begin a mentoring project with blind students.
DKS: Can students contact you if they'd like to ask questions and exchange ideas?
AB: Sure. They're welcome to contact me by email at [email protected].
by Heather Field
From the Editor: A native of Australia, Heather Field runs a small school in Tennessee for blind and sighted children. Her thoughtful and impassioned posts about education frequently appear on blindness-related listservs. Recently, on a listserv for parents who are homeschooling blind children, Heather responded to the mother of a six-year-old with low vision. The mother had inquired about effective ways to introduce Braille into her son's curriculum. This article is based on Heather's reply.
From: "Heather Field"
To: [email protected]
Subject: Re: reading programs for 6 year old
Date: Saturday, May 11, 2013 9:52 PM
I'm sorry it's taken me so long to get to writing a response to your post. It's been on my heart to share some thoughts with you, but I've just been so busy. Please allow me to share my opinion and advice with you, in the hope that it will help you and your son on your journey and encourage you in your insistence on Braille.
As a teacher with over thirty-five years of experience, and also as a person who is blind myself, I'd encourage you to use the following approach in teaching Braille to your son: Hands Only. Learning to read Braille is not just a matter of memorizing the dot positions of letters or the abbreviations in contracted Braille. For a print reader who is learning to read by touch, it is about training the brain to interpret the tactile input from the fingers quickly and accurately. Unfortunately, in my experience most Braille teachers make two fundamental mistakes in teaching Braille to children with low vision. The first is that they allow these children to experience Braille visually. Some even have children use a marker to make Braille letters with ink dots on paper so they can learn the dot positions visually. As Braille is a tactile reading method, this approach is frustrating and counterproductive. Using vision to learn to read Braille by touch is like trying to learn to swim by making swimming movements while lying on the cement beside the pool. The swimmer's brain needs to learn to interpret the kinesthetic information the body is sending it, so that it can tell the arms and legs how hard to push and in which directions to move. In the same way, reading Braille with the eyes does not teach a child to be a tactile Braille reader. The brain of the beginning Braille reader needs lots and lots of experience interpreting the information that the fingers send.
This brings us to the second mistake Braille teachers tend to make. Beginning Braille readers are usually given Braille dots to read far too early in the development of their tactile discrimination skills. Low vision is useful for certain tasks; actually, however, most low-vision children are functionally blind. This means that they cannot perform the tasks of daily life using vision alone. Therefore, they need to develop alternative, nonvisual techniques, which include the ability to use their fingers to gather information when their vision is not effective. Reading Braille is a task that relies on very fine tactile discrimination. Tactile discrimination needs to be developed progressively.
I would advise you to start your son's Braille reading work with pre-Braille activities to develop his tactile discrimination skills. To develop new pathways for tactile input, the brain needs to make a complete switch from using vision during tactile lessons. This will only happen if your son wears a totally effective sleepshade. The NFB Independence Market sells a very good sleepshade for less than ten dollars. I strongly encourage you to buy a sleepshade. For at least the next year, your son must wear it whenever he is reading or writing Braille, and whenever he is playing tactile games. He is not going to forget how to read print, nor will his vision decline due to the hour or two each day that you work with him while he wears a sleepshade. He will simply learn to switch between the visual and tactile modalities as the need arises.
Give your son lots of activities to develop tactile discrimination. You will find many ideas online, including fun activities with sensory boxes. In these games, you hide a small object in a box filled with material such as wild bird seed, pasta, gravel, or shredded paper, and let the child find it by touch. Here are some other ideas to get you started. Have your son try the following activities.
Once your son's tactile discrimination skills have begun to improve, his brain will become used to focusing on the information coming from his hands. He will no longer strain to use his eyes. At this point, he will be ready to experience lines of Braille dots and to begin tracking with his hands. He also will be ready to start discriminating using Braille dots and, with his good discrimination skills and his confidence in what his hands can do, he will read Braille with much greater ease and success.
I suggest that you use a formal resource at this stage. The Mangold Developmental Program of Tactile Perception and Braille Letter Recognition by Sally Mangold, PhD, is available from Exceptional Teaching Aids (<www.exceptionalteaching.net>). While it does cost a bit, it comes with everything you will need to launch your son into reading Braille with a light touch, correct hand position, and excellent tactile discrimination skills.
After he has completed this program, he will be ready to learn to read, using whatever books and method you choose. Be sure that you always call it "reading" and "learning to read" and not "Braille." Braille is a tactile method of reading and writing. As children make the transition from print to Braille, it is important that they understand that they are reading, and that Braille is the best method for them to use for reading and writing.
Right now, both reading media are difficult for your son. He finds print the easier of the two because it is the most familiar to him, so print is the reading method he prefers. However, as his tactile skills develop and he gets more practice with Braille, he will begin to prefer Braille. He will develop speed and fluency, and he will not have neck strain and eyestrain. He will not have slow, frustrating hours of struggle to accomplish simple reading and writing tasks, plagued with headaches and sore eyes. He will be able to read and write with the same, or even greater, speed as his sighted peers. He will not have hours and hours of his leisure time taken up doing written work because he cannot read or write quickly. He will not be underperforming, struggling to pretend he is a sighted child. He will be succeeding, pushing up against the edges of his potential, proudly achieving as a functionally blind person.
Another crucial part of this picture is the public perception of Braille and, more importantly, of the people who use Braille as their means of reading and writing. If your son is to embrace Braille as the door to normality and independence that it truly is, he needs to be educated about Braille and those who use it. He needs to be told the truth about blindness.
I'm sure your son knows Braille as "the blind people's way of reading." Even though he is young, he already will have acquired society's erroneous, stereotypical understanding of what it means to be blind. To the average sighted person, one's competence and value to society are proportionately related to the amount of vision one has. The more vision one has and the more one relies on vision, the more "normal" and hence competent one is assumed to be. Conversely, the less vision one has and the more one relies on blindness tools such as Braille and a long white cane, the less "normal" and competent the person is assumed to be. In the mind of the average sighted person, the word "blind" evokes helplessness, inferiority, dependence, darkness, tragic loss, and chronic incompetence. Blindness is surely a pitiable state! Nobody wants to be labeled with that dreaded word.
Since the people who are supposed to have these dire characteristics read Braille, who would want to admit to being one of them by using Braille? Certainly not most children! In fact, many parents, desperately afraid that their child is blind, praise their child for saying that he/she can see. Many parents would be astonished and deeply saddened to learn how often their low-vision children lie about what they can see, struggling on through uncertainty, fear, and pretending. They do this to please their parents, who have made it clear from their earliest years that their not seeing makes them very sad.
Given the social stigma, it is likely that your son resists Braille on a psychological level in addition to having difficulty with tactile discrimination. Of course, the truth is that one’s amount of vision has nothing to do with competence, ability, and fulfillment. We all know many people with 20/20 vision whose lives and relationships are in a mess, who can't get or hold a job, or who are drowning in addictions. The possession of good eyesight does not ensure a good life. Most blind people are average, competent, fulfilled, busy, responsible citizens. Of course, as in any subgroup of the population, there also are blind people who are not successful--but this is not because their eyes don't work well.
Part of your job in convincing your son to embrace Braille as his chief reading and writing medium, to see it as the door to educational success and the joys that reading will bring, is to teach him the truth about blindness and blind people. Perhaps the first thing for you to do is to find him some competent blind men to act as role models. Also, some friends his age who are blind would go a long way to showing him what can be accomplished using nonvisual techniques, including Braille. I'm sure the president of your state affiliate of the NFB would love to help you find role models. The president of your state Parents of Blind Children chapter would be a great resource to help your son meet other blind children.
My years of experience working with low-vision students have shown me that, unless you change his perception of blindness and Braille, and unless you stop the visual input during Braille reading and writing times, your son will not make good progress with Braille. He will continue to fail with print as his main form of reading and writing. He will be left smack in the middle of the demographic that has no functional form of literacy and, therefore, does not get employed.
Statistics are scarce on the employment of blind people. The few existing studies find that 90 percent of the blind people who are employed use Braille. Among my acquaintances, most adults with low vision use print when it is useful to them and are very pleased to use Braille when print is not usable. Many current graduates of the public education system who have low vision are very bitter toward those teachers who did not equip them with Braille as a tool. Unless they have the discipline to learn Braille on their own, they are condemned to struggle with print while they can still see it. Sadly, as they age, their sight will deteriorate to the point where they are unable to read print anymore. I applaud you for deciding to give your son the tools that will ensure his educational success and lifelong independence.
I hope this information is helpful to you, and I wish you all the success in the world with your son's transition to Braille.
by Rose Sloan
From the Editor: A recent graduate of Northwestern University, Rose Sloan is currently working as an intern with the American Association of People with Disabilities in Washington, DC. She won an NFB National Scholarship in 2012 and serves as president of the Illinois Association of Blind Students.
I was born with low vision, and over the years I have struggled with identifying myself as blind. I have been involved in the National Federation of the Blind for a few years now. Gradually I have made the mental switch from considering myself "visually impaired" to calling myself "legally blind."
I am what is sometimes termed a "high partial," which means that my vision is about ten percent that of a typically sighted person. My visual acuity is 20/200. This means that I can "read" 200-point font from twenty feet away.
I put the word "read" in quotes because many factors determine whether or not I can read something. First of all, I need to be in a well-lighted area. Furthermore, the font, the color of the print, and the background color all can be decisive factors. If I want to read a street sign, I cannot see it from across the street (especially if it is at the diagonal!). I might get halfway across the street before I can figure out what the sign says. I sometimes wonder how much time I would save if I could read street signs from any corner of the intersection instead of having to cross to an ideal spot.
There are ways around this dilemma, of course, but no one can be prepared all the time. When I know I am going to an unfamiliar place, I make sure to bring my monocular with me so I can read signs more easily. This strategy usually works well, but sometimes the streets have many lanes and the signs are far away. In such cases, signs are illegible to me, even with a monocular.
Another instance when it is annoying to be legally blind occurs when I take public transportation, especially subways. More often than not, the subway tunnels are not well lighted. Between the dimness and the movement of the train, I am unable to read the signs that identify the stops. I am always nervous on a train or bus that does not audibly announce the stops that are approaching. I feel that people think it is odd when I ask which stop is coming up next. Sometimes I wonder if they think I am illiterate. Usually I explain that I can't see very well. People generally say something such as, "Yeah, I can't see too well, either. Without my glasses I'm as blind as a bat." I smile to myself, appreciating that they think they understand and knowing that they really don't. After all, their vision is correctable. They can drive. My vision is not correctable, and for me driving is not an option.
From the time I was a young child, I knew that I would not be able to drive a car, and I accepted this reality. Even if I lived in a state with less stringent requirements for visual acuity, I would not get my driver's license. If a child darted out in front of my car, I don't think I would see it soon enough to respond. I will almost certainly make my home in a city where I have access to public transportation.
Being legally blind has its drawbacks, but I have developed some positive qualities that may be related to my limited sight. Some of my friends tell me that I am one of the most organized and prepared people they know. For example, the day before I started a new work-study job, I mapped out the route I would take and made a practice run. My friends were surprised, because they would never do such a thing. At that time, taking a city bus was new to me, and I felt I had to be prepared.
Another example of my planning occurred when I was a college freshman. I visited the buildings where my classes would be held days before the beginning of the quarter. When the new quarter began, my planning paid off. I knew my landmarks; I knew where my classes were. By the time I was a senior, my friends looked to me for the most efficient way to get from here to there on campus.
Whenever I run into a situation in which my blindness affects me unexpectedly, I remember it and try to learn from the experience. For example, during my junior year in college, I had to give a presentation. Although PowerPoint was not required, I decided to use it. I had given PowerPoint presentations in the past, so I did not expect this one to be a big deal. However, when I got to the classroom, I realized that the screen I would have to use was smaller than the screens I had used in the past. I got up to give my presentation. The pretty purple background was on the screen, but when the first slide came up, I couldn't read my own presentation. The font was too small because the screen was too small. Of course, I used very high contrast colors, but that wasn't enough. I could not even start my presentation because I couldn't read it.
My friend quickly tried to help me out. She gave me a copy of the handout I made for the class. "Use this," she said. "You should be fine."
But I was not fine with the handout. First of all, it was in small print. Second, I had never practiced giving the presentation this way.
At this point, I was panicking. I have been legally blind all of my life; I've learned to use alternative techniques when the standard methods do not work. But in that moment I couldn't think what to do.
Finally, someone suggested I give my presentation sitting at a desk with my laptop open in front of me. The class could see the slides on the big screen, and I could see my slides on my computer. I felt very embarrassed because I was the only person to give a presentation sitting down. I also felt I had wasted my classmates' time before we came up with a solution.
In the end the presentation went well. Now, whenever I give a presentation, I have my laptop in front of me. This was a valuable lesson, but to this day I feel ashamed that I did not foresee the challenge I faced that day.
Although I found a solution to the challenge of giving presentations, I have not found solutions to all of the challenges that arise from being legally blind. One of my biggest challenges is my difficulty reading people's emotions visually. In a psychology class, I learned that facial expressions are universal. However, when I look at pictures of people with certain facial expressions, I often misread the emotions they are conveying. Sometimes I feel that my friends are upset with me, but when I ask them about it, I realize they are not.
On the flip side, my own facial expressions seem to be more distinct than those of most people. When I talked to my professors, for example, they seemed to know when I was confused just by looking at me. Sometimes this trait is helpful, but at other times it would be nice to be unnoticed.
These personality traits and quirks of mine may be totally unrelated to my legal blindness. Some of my friends attribute parts of my personality to the fact that I am legally blind, but others believe I would behave the same way even if I had perfect vision. I am not quite sure what I believe, but since I know my vision will never be perfect, I will never find out.
My lack of vision may put me at a disadvantage at times when I interact with people, but sometimes it actually can be advantageous. For example, my sport of choice is gymnastics. I have been involved in this sport since I was in second grade, and I absolutely love it. I feel an adrenalin rush when my body is flipping through the air, especially at that moment when my hands hit the vaulting table.
I mention gymnastics because certain maneuvers require "blind landings." Blind landings occur when a gymnast is not able to see the ground before he or she lands. Many gymnasts prefer backward tumbling skills; as the gymnast approaches the ground, her head is positioned in such a way that she can see where her feet are supposed to land. Front tumbling is the exact opposite. In a front flip, the gymnast's head is looking at the wall, not toward the floor.
In order to perform a blind landing well, a gymnast must have very good body awareness. I am very aware of where I am in the air and what I am supposed to be doing in order to execute skills correctly. Many gymnasts struggle with body awareness, possibly because they rely on their eyes. Of the gymnasts I've known, many prefer backward tumbling and try to avoid blind landings. Blind landings make sense to me, and I actually prefer front tumbling.
In order for me to participate in gymnastics, a few adaptations are made. I "borrow" a teammate's eyes before I complete a vault. It is proper gymnastics etiquette to salute the judge before and after performing a routine. Often I can't see the judge signal to me that it is time for me to take my turn. I ask a teammate to come to the far end of the vault runway with me, and she tells me when to salute.
When I am practicing, I find that I am one of the most cautious people in the gym. I do not mean that I avoid attempting difficult skills, but I might wait an extra second or two before tumbling or vaulting, just to be sure the coast is clear. In my fifteen years of gymnastics, I have only once run into another gymnast. In that particular instance, a young girl was running around the gym. (Gymnasts are never supposed to do that!) She darted in front of me from my right side, the side with the eye that has no vision. Neither of us was hurt, but it was a scary experience.
I think I am one of the most verbal gymnasts in the gym. I ask others whose turn it is. I alert others that I am going to be tumbling to a particular corner or that I am going to be vaulting. Other gymnasts may see people coming earlier than I do; other gymnasts may not feel that they have to alert anyone that they will be using a certain space. I would rather be safe than sorry.
I hope that this article gives you a better understanding of how I, Rose Sloan, see as a high partial. I cannot speak for all high partials. We all see things differently.
I would like to close with a story. As a third grader, I was asked what my biggest fear was. It was really difficult for me to think of something I feared. I was the girl who thought snakes were cool and believed spiders were nothing to get upset about. (Anyway, I never see spiders unless someone points them out to me.) After much thought, my response was, "The dark." I realize now what I meant. My greatest fear was that I would go completely blind. I felt it was totally possible, since already I had terrible vision compared to my peers. Luckily, I never have lost any of the sight I have. My vision has been stable for the past twenty years.
Today the thought of vision loss is still unsettling, but I can say with confidence that blindness is no longer my greatest fear. My involvement in the NFB has taught me something invaluable: even if my eyesight declines, I can still be successful. I can still be a very happy person.
by Merry-Noel Chamberlain, MA, TVI, NOMCT
From the Editor: Merry-Noel Chamberlain is a teacher of the visually impaired and an orientation and mobility instructor based in Omaha, Nebraska. In this article, she shares her thoughts about teaching cane travel to students who are blind or deaf-blind or have low vision.
The work of an orientation and mobility (O&M) instructor is both physical and psychological. The physical instruction focuses on technique--how the cane is held and maneuvered. Depending upon such factors as location, terrain, and the task at hand, the student must learn a variety of techniques such as the pencil grip and extended grip. He or she must learn when to glide or tap the cane, how to shoreline, and, if the cane has a metal tip, how to benefit from echolocation.
The physical component of O&M instruction is relatively straightforward. The psychological component, on the other hand, presents an assortment of hurdles. This article will focus on the psychological component of O&M instruction, the component that makes the instructor's work both challenging and rewarding.
"How hard can it be to teach O&M?" people sometimes ask. "Just put a stick in their hand and off they go." O&M instruction is not so easy, however. Few students simply master a set of skills and take off on their own.
Many steps must be taken before a blind or visually impaired student is ready to venture forward independently. First of all, the student must be willing to accept the cane. Second, he or she needs time to perfect the necessary skills of travel, the physical aspects mentioned above. Finally, the student needs the self-confidence to put the first two pieces together in order to travel independently. The instructor must assist the student as he/she works through these steps. Problem solving may be necessary to help some students overcome their fears and anxieties. Other forms of problem solving may be necessary in work with students who have cognitive issues or language delays. In working with children, the child's personality and the attitudes of parents, friends, teachers, and neighbors all play a part. For teens and young adults, coworkers and the extended community are important. The factors and influences can be endless, depending on the individual.
Frankly, individuals from two to ninety-nine come up with excuses as to why they do not need to use the cane. Some excuses are based on the idea that they don't actually need the long white cane, that they can get around fine without it. The majority of the excuses involve not wanting to be seen carrying or using the cane. Some individuals worry more about how other people perceive the long white cane than they do about their own safety. Their fears about what others will think are very powerful, though they can vary, depending upon the individual's age.
When children are introduced to the long white cane between the ages of two and seven or eight, there seems to be little concern about other people's perceptions. This is the best time to introduce the cane to a child. At this age, using the long white cane becomes a simple fact of life. The child ventures forward quite easily, provided the parents or guardian have a positive perception of the cane and its use.
If the cane is introduced to a child between third grade and middle school, concern about other people's perceptions begins to increase. The strength of this concern depends on the child, his amount of vision loss, and the attitudes of his immediate family members. At this age, the child begins to want to blend in with peers, and he may reject anything that causes him to look "different." This is especially true for children who have quite a bit of remaining vision.
At this age, the parents need to be positive and supportive. If the parents' perception of the long white cane is negative, the child will pick up on that message. The instructor will face an uphill battle trying to teach the skills that will allow the child to become a safe traveler. The instructor may need to provide a bit of counseling and some basic cane lessons to the child's parents. Generally this strategy ensures full acceptance of the cane, especially if the child is totally blind.
Once the child enters high school, his or her acceptance of the long white cane is influenced heavily by peers. Fears about social acceptance can be so strong that the teen may actually reject the long white cane, placing him/herself in danger while traveling. The student may continually forget the cane at home, in the car, or in the lunchroom. He or she may refuse to use the cane outright, or may break it on purpose.
If the teen lives in a small community, friends and classmates often take on the role of untrained guides. They become enablers who actually hinder the teen from moving toward independence. This situation is a matter for great concern. After high school, blind and sighted students often head off to colleges or work sites far from home. The young person with poor travel skills will be at a severe disadvantage and may be left behind.
During the teen years, parents need to have a strong positive attitude about the long white cane. If they truly believe that the cane is a valuable tool, they can encourage their teen to take and, more importantly, use the cane at every walking opportunity outside the home environment. Sometimes a parent finds it easier to allow the teen to depend on peers than to battle over taking and using the cane. The instructor and the parents may face a long struggle before the teen develops the first hint of a positive attitude.
Like parents, teachers need time to adjust to the student's use of a long white cane. Teachers, too, need guidance and support. Some children and teens may appear to move comfortably without the cane in the classroom or around the school. The teacher may "forget" to encourage cane use or, sadly, even instill the idea that the child doesn't need the cane at all.
In the case of students with low vision who are just learning the value of the cane, teachers must be very supportive. They need to encourage the student to use the cane at every walking opportunity outside the classroom. Students, especially young students, are likely to follow the teacher's example, positive or negative. The student may quickly pick up the teacher's subtle message that the cane is not necessary. If teachers do not remind the student to grab the cane when leaving the classroom, the student may not think to do so. If this happens once, it will happen twice. Soon the cane is totally forgotten, which can be a problem when it comes to field trips outside the school environment.
The teacher must accept the child's use of the cane and must be considered a member of the O&M team. The O&M instructor needs to provide basic instruction to the teacher or teachers so they can reinforce positive cane technique when the instructor is not present. In order to reinforce the use of the long white cane at school, it may be necessary to place a goal on the Individualized Educational Plan (IEP), stating that the child will use the cane at every walking opportunity outside the classroom. Such a goal holds teachers accountable and supports the student's use of the long white cane at school.
After high school young people may receive O&M training through their state's rehabilitation program for the blind and visually impaired. This training may happen in the individual's home, neighborhood, college, and/or workplace. However, the training may be unsuccessful unless the instructor considers the client's perception of the long white cane. Some young people may use the cane only when the instructor appears, leaving it propped in the corner between lessons. It may take a number of falls or a serious accident before the trainee begins to accept the cane as a tool for safe and independent travel.
Through state agencies for the blind and visually impaired, adults may also attend a blindness training center to learn independent living skills and receive O&M instruction while wearing sleepshades. At such centers, the individual is surrounded by others undergoing the same type of training. Acceptance and use of the long white cane are supported by staff and peers alike, leading to overall success.
Extended Community & Beyond
During training, an O&M instructor must assess the individual's personal perception of using the long white cane. Is he/she comfortable using the cane in public and around peers? Lessons need to be planned that will help the student overcome any roadblocks of discomfort. For example, a student who is deaf-blind and attends a school for the deaf may be comfortable receiving O&M instruction off campus. However, the student may resist training around peers until he/she develops personal acceptance and builds self-confidence. Until that occurs, the student most likely will not use the long white cane outside of O&M training, regardless of how little vision he/she has. In another scenario, the student may accept the cane, but may not want to use it in front of parents or other family members.
Acceptance and a positive attitude about using the long white cane must develop from within the individual. This acceptance then spreads outward to the wider community. In the case of very young children, acceptance begins with parents or guardians. If the immediate family has a positive attitude, this perception transfers to the child. Sometimes older individuals have a positive attitude, but family members and peers may have a negative perception of the long white cane. Those persons may insist that the visually impaired individual not use the cane in their presence, or they may argue that the individual does not need the cane because they are always there to assist. This attitude can cause an additional burden for the individual who is visually impaired. Once an individual has accepted using the cane in public, he/she may have to be patient with family members as they develop a positive perception of the long white cane as well.
Throughout the training process, the instructor must be patient. Individualized instruction is necessary to help the student perfect the skills necessary to be a successful traveler. Students come with a myriad of backgrounds, skills, and cognitive levels. Some students have physical limitations that need to be addressed. Others may have hearing impairments or may speak different languages. The student's culture can also influence the instruction. In some cultures, a visual impairment is considered a weakness, and use of the long white cane seems to reinforce this perception. Therefore, cane instruction may be frowned upon or refused entirely.
Beginning with the first lesson, the instructor helps the student perfect the physical component of O&M skills. Each lesson reinforces previously learned skills, thus encouraging and developing self-confidence. As the student perfects the physical skills, lessons become more challenging, but no more advanced than the student can handle safely. Sometimes the student may not believe that he/she actually can do the lesson at hand. At the end of a successful lesson, he/she may be pleasantly surprised. With each successful lesson, self-confidence grows.
As mentioned earlier, O&M instructors sometimes need to be problem solvers. For example, a nonverbal student who has severe cognitive delays seems to do well with the cane in open spaces. When walking down a hallway, however, he tends to pull the cane behind him after it gets stuck in open doorways. The instructor could encourage him to walk down the middle of the hallway, but this would make it difficult for him to locate the desired room. He would be unable to count the doors or feel for a tactile room identifier. The instructor could change the tip of the cane to a large roller, but that would add weight to the cane, and the roller tip would not be needed elsewhere. The additional weight might even lead the student to reject the cane altogether. Perhaps the student is using the cane in the right hand when, in fact, he is left-handed. Bingo! Problem solved.
To cite another example, perhaps the O&M instructor has a student who is verbal and has mild cognitive delays. During instruction, the student is to wear sleepshades. However, with the sleepshades on, the student tends to swing her arms around, walk faster, and bounce off the walls and furniture. In this case, the instructor needs to step back the progression of the lesson. The instructor must give the student time to adjust to wearing the sleepshades while she sits in a familiar environment. Next she can be assigned small tasks that allow her to take baby steps away from the seat. It might even turn out that this student has an undiagnosed hearing problem. It is always a matter of looking at the whole student and being creative about solving problems.
The instructor must begin to help the student build self-confidence at the very first lesson. This can be done by a successful introduction to the long white cane and, depending on the student, mini lessons geared towards success. For a new student, success can be as simple as recognizing the difference in sound when the metal cane tip taps the wall versus a wooden door. Perhaps it is simply the experience of walking down a hall without veering.
Perfecting skills and building self-confidence overlap for the student, regardless of age. A host of activities can serve as confidence-building exercises, from carrying the daily attendance sheet to the school office to completing a complex travel route with minimal supervision. Sometimes building self-confidence can involve the opportunity to travel with a less advanced student, teaching a few skills along the way. Wearing sleepshades is a huge confidence builder because it forces the student to use senses other than vision in order to travel successfully.
Self-confidence cannot be gained overnight. Actually, it is not something that can be taught. The instructor must prepare lessons that help the student build self-confidence by mastering new skills and meeting fresh challenges. In the case of children, part of the responsibility falls on the student's parent/guardian, who must encourage growth by supporting the use of the long white cane.
One day a teenage girl takes her cane on an outing without being prompted to do so. One day a boy picks up his cane and ventures into an unfamiliar environment for the first time. A formerly resistant student educates her friends about the use of the long white cane. These are among the many rewards that the orientation and mobility instructor enjoys.
The instructor's ultimate reward is to see that the student realizes the cane is simply a part of himself or herself. It is a tool, a symbol of independence. When that happens, instruction is truly successful.
For more information and for O&M activities for young children, go to the website of the Professional Development and Research Institute on Blindness, <www.pdrib.com>.
by Lydia Schuck
From the Editor: Lydia Schuck conducts research with a federally funded project that helps school districts support transition programs for youth with disabilities. She is the mother of a twenty-year-old blind daughter, a past president of the Michigan Parents of Blind Children, and an active member of the Lansing Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind. This is the first of five articles she plans to write about the transition from school to career or higher education for blind young people.
How many times have you talked with your child about grown-up goals? Some kids bring it up all the time: "When I grow up, I'm going to be a ..." Sometimes those ideas may seem wildly impractical. If your child is blind, you might think you ought to explain that it just won't work out for him or her to become a NASCAR driver.
But wait a second. When your little girl who is sighted said she wanted to marry Prince Harry, did you tell her that it was impossible? Probably not; you knew she would figure it out eventually on her own. It is the same way with blind children. They can figure it out themselves. Let them dream big ... who knows what might be available to them in a few years? If planes can be operated by computer from half a world away, in a few years a person without vision might be able to become a pilot.
It isn't our job as parents to make our kids line up their goals with ours. It is our job to help them keep moving. (Ever heard the phrase, "You can't steer a parked car?") As our kids move, we stay alongside them; then we move a little further away, still within reach. Finally we're only in reach by phone, if they think to call or to answer their cell phones.
Every time your child says, "When I grow up ..." turn and listen. Growing up is a long conversation, and nothing has to be settled right now. If your child knows you will listen and will not burst his bubble with too much reality or advice, he'll keep talking to you over the years. You can say, "Great idea!" Or how about, "I will be so proud of you when you get that all worked out!"
But surely, when your child reaches middle school, this conversation has to get more serious! Many schools require each student to develop a plan for her high school courses, designed to fit her goals. Even as goals change, just continuing to move forward is the best plan. Parents of youth who have disabilities can use the IEP process to make the forward movement even more meaningful.
First of all, ask your child's teacher if the career development activities at the school are all accessible. If the computer website or software program used by the students for career planning is not fully accessible, the school should not be using it. If the school is using inaccessible materials, you will need to work out an alternative plan in the IEP meeting and talk to the school board about getting a new program for everyone. Universal design principles tell us that accessibility features are good for lots of kids who don't have IEPs, as well as for those who have identified disabilities.
When you are sure your child will be fully included in the career development programs designed for the complete student body, it's time to turn to your child's individual needs as a blind youth. The blindness skills, sometimes called the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC), are a set of skills familiar to teachers of blind and visually impaired children. You can refer to these skills at the IEP meeting to identify specific needs for your child. The nine skill areas of the ECC are Academic and Compensatory Access, Assistive Technology, Career Development, Independent Living, Orientation and Mobility, Recreation and Leisure, Self-Determination, Sensory Efficiency, and Social Interaction. Many administrators and special education directors are not familiar with these categories, but your child's teacher of the visually impaired can bring materials to explain the nine skill areas.
Four skill areas of the ECC take on new or increased importance as your child approaches graduation from high school. Academic and Compensatory Access, Career Development, Independent Living, and Recreation and Leisure (Community Participation) become more important as your child moves through and from high school.
In adulthood, your child will not have the kind of academic support that is provided in elementary, middle, and high school. Your child will need skills that can transfer to any learning situation. By the time your child is in middle school, you may realize that high school and college level reading require a more efficient reading medium such as Braille. Use the IEP to get Braille instruction for your child.
If a parent signs an IEP, school personnel take that to mean that the parent is satisfied with the services the child will receive. School districts are under time pressure to complete the IEP process. You should not sign an IEP that does not serve your child well. Keep going back to the table. Ask a person who has good blindness skills to come to the IEP meeting to support the value of Braille and other blindness skills. If you anticipate a problem, schedule a pre-IEP meeting several weeks before the due date of the final IEP.
Similarly, as your child gets older, you may realize that there are new concerns in the skill areas of Career Development, Independent Living, and Recreation and Leisure that should be addressed in the IEP. Make it clear that you will support the work of teachers in these areas, or in fact, that you are handling some of it at home and need the teachers' support. Offers of partnership go a long way at the IEP meeting. Survey research (Schuck, 2013) indicates that parents of blind youth are willing to provide instruction in many areas. Ask your child's teacher to help you with any areas of independent living.
Returning to the topic of grown-up goals, in the school year that your child turns sixteen, the IEP process must record and reflect your child's strengths, preferences, and interests. While these items are required by law at age sixteen, many states start transition planning at age fourteen. The child's IEP must include "reasonable postsecondary goals based on assessment in the areas of postsecondary education and training, employment, and if necessary, independent living skills" (IDEA 2004). If you talk about goals as you go along over several years, you and your child will have no trouble listing them before the IEP meeting. Your child will be able to talk a bit about future plans to the members of his team. If you haven't been talking about the future, it is never too late to start.
Think about the distance between where your child is now and one of the goals she has mentioned. Is it a long way? That prospect can be very daunting to consider. A helpful step in getting there is to ask a simple question. Regarding every goal your child may have, ask yourself or your child, "What's next?" What can you do to move a step closer to the goal? You don't need to figure out how to do all of it. Keep the end in mind, but in your actions, just focus on the next step.
In our family, the long-term goals have been easy to identify, but the baby-step goals between here and there seem to be terrifying. A first step that appears reasonable to you may seem much too big a change for your child, especially if he has any additional disabilities that result in high anxiety over change.
Friends in the NFB--parents, and especially blind adults and young adults--can be great assets in your child's life. If your child's teacher cannot spend much time on a particular area of the IEP, you can make an informal arrangement with a blind adult you know. The IDEA special education law recommends interagency collaboration to support transition services. This is actually a very broad recommendation. It means that when your child has identified a long-term goal to be achieved after high school, anyone in her life may be listed in the IEP to help her reach that goal.
When transition services are listed in the IEP for your child, you might ask to include volunteer services from a blind adult. Perhaps your child could have a mentoring lunch with a blind adult and a few school friends once a month. Or perhaps your blind friend's house can be a destination when the O&M instructor works with your child. A local chapter meeting of the NFB can be considered a Recreation and Leisure activity, even if you are the child's driver and companion at the meeting. Does your child write stories? Share them with your friends in the NFB.
Be creative. Think of the people around you who can add to your child's life. At first this may seem to your teacher like extra work. If you stress your willingness to be a partner and to support the teacher's ideas and efforts, the teacher will know that you both want the same things: a satisfying adult life for your child.
Get the conversation started with your child and keep it going. What do you think about doing when you are older? Where do you think you'll live? Do you ever think you might like to go to college? For you as the parent, the most important question is simply: What's next?
IDEA 2004. US Department of Education.
Schuck, L. (2013). "Parent Perceptions of Transition Planning for Blind and Visually Impaired Youth." Unpublished manuscript.
by Kaiti Shelton
From the Editor: This article is based on a speech Kaiti Shelton delivered to the Community Service Group at the 2013 NFB national convention in Orlando. Kaiti is a sophomore at the University of Dayton in Ohio, and she was awarded a 2013 NFB National Scholarship.
When I was in kindergarten, my mother enrolled me in Girl Scouts. For the next seven years I spent much of my free time camping, hiking, and working to earn badges with my friends. Along the way my troop also did small things to give back to the community in which we lived. I remember planting flower bulbs and pulling weeds outside my elementary school, helping to decorate the display case in the school commons area, and working at an event to benefit St. Jude's Research Hospital. The event, called the Mathathon, is similar to the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life.
Back then I didn't really understand why my friends and I were doing these things. As I handed out water bottles to runners at the Mathathon, a part of me couldn't help but wonder, "When is this thing going to be over so I can go play?" Even when I ran my two laps around the school's baseball field to complete my work in the Mathathon, I wondered when I could stop running; I was tired, hot, and thirsty. I knew that what I was doing was nice, and that it was good to help people, but I didn't understand the intrinsic value of service. Whenever I did something, I expected an award in acknowledgement of my actions.
That all changed when I joined my high school's Student Senate as an advisory representative. One of the requirements for maintaining membership in the Student Senate was the completion of fifteen hours of community service per semester. A lot of the activities Student Senate offered for members to earn service hours involved making the school look nice in some way. Major events included decorating the gym for dances and painting festive pictures and sayings on the cafeteria windows each month to celebrate holidays or special events.
While I probably could have participated in these activities to an extent, I didn't think I would be able to give back as much as I wanted to. I didn't want to sit in a corner idly waiting for something else to do while my classmates performed visual tasks. I realized that if I was truly going to give back, I would have to create opportunities for service that would align with my strengths and afford me a real chance to help to the best of my abilities.
My mother played a major role in helping me get started. First she agreed to let me help her with a project she had been working on for years. An advocate of Braille literacy herself, my mom wanted to create a Braille book lending library for the Sightless Children's Club, a nonprofit organization in Ohio that seeks to provide assistive technology to legally blind students. While my mom kept track of the donated books and made a list of titles, authors, genres, and grade levels, I made Braille labels to stick on the spine of each book for quick browsing on the shelves. The books were then packed into boxes and taken to the club's location, where they have since been stored in a library room of considerable size.
Once the library project was complete, my mom suggested that I capitalize on my love of music and my knack for working with kids. As a child I had attended music programs at the Cincinnati Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired. My mom thought I might love to give back to that program. I took her suggestion, completed volunteer training, and began volunteering at monthly music groups that winter.
I did not quite know what to expect when I showed up for my first day of volunteering. I was a freshman in high school. I had only a vague idea what music therapy was, and even less of an idea of how or why it worked. I did not have a set of instructions telling me what to do or how to do it, and I was briefly taken aback when I was told that some of the students were nonverbal and used wheelchairs. I had never met anyone who was nonverbal, and I had had limited contact with wheelchair users. I realized that, just as I wanted to be treated normally, the students I would be helping would want the same thing. After briefly observing the group and noticing how the two music therapists assisted the students, I began to assist them myself. By the end of the day I felt more at ease, and I had aided several students in playing their instruments of choice.
As I continued to help with the music program, I realized that I loved volunteering and looked forward to making music with the group members each month. A year into my volunteer work, I realized that music therapy interested me, and I planned to pursue it as a career. I was recognized with the agency's Paul Silverglade Youth Volunteer Award for my contributions to the youth services program. I was surprised, honored, and grateful to be given such an award, but at that point I knew I was doing service for purely intrinsic reasons. I was no longer after awards and accolades as payoffs for doing a good thing. The benefits I received as a volunteer were far more important than any plaque ever could be. I had found a career that excited me, as well as a passion for community service. I continued to volunteer at the monthly music groups for the rest of my high school career, and I still visit when I am home from college.
In spite of a hefty course load at the University of Dayton, I am still extremely interested in giving back to the community. I manage to juggle this interest along with my homework and classes through involvement in several campus organizations. Last year I volunteered with an after-school music program called the Edison Music Project at one of Dayton's inner-city elementary schools. I taught basic piano, clarinet, and percussion to fifth- and sixth-grade students. I joined the coed service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, and I have participated in service projects including cleaning up trash around campus, ushering for the spring musical, and participating in a dance marathon to benefitt the Children's Miracle Network of Hospitals. As a member of the University of Dayton Music Therapy Club, I have provided musical enrichment to nursing home residents, teens with developmental disabilities, and patients at Dayton Children's Hospital.
Last semester I participated in what was possibly the most powerful service event of the year. Along with the sisters of Sigma Alpha Iota, a professional women's music fraternity of which I am now a member, I went to a St. Vincent de Paul women's shelter to play for the residents. The women were deeply moved by the music; they laughed, cried, and were very appreciative of our performance. It was great to see that something as simple as music could change someone's day and make her so happy.
Another powerful service project in which I participated as a member of the greater campus community was an annual program called Christmas on Campus. Interested University of Dayton students sign up to adopt a first- or second-grade child from one of Dayton's less privileged elementary schools. The students provide the children with a small Christmas gift and chaperone them as they enjoy a few hours of kid-friendly activities on campus. I really enjoyed spending time with the second grader I was paired with. I felt like I helped him have a good time right before the holidays.
More recently I have been an active volunteer with the first Ohio BELL program. I hope to assist in other NFB programs in years to come. Each of these service projects has shown me the importance of giving back to the community and using my talents and skills to help others.
What does involvement in community service mean to you or to a student you know? Community service has several secondary benefits that are great for volunteers. On the extrinsic level, volunteering can assist students build résumés that are helpful in applying for jobs and scholarships. Students might even earn an award for their service. Aside from the socialization that comes from working as a member of a team and interacting with others, students who volunteer also have opportunities on the intrinsic level. They can gain empathy and compassion for others, improve their communication skills and confidence, and find a career they are passionate about pursuing. Unique to blind students are the opportunities to learn patience for answering questions related to blindness while actively demonstrating that blind people can lead independent lives and contribute to their communities. I believe this is probably the best way to educate the public on the true nature of blindness.
However, it is important to bear in mind that service is not about building a résumé or looking good to a scholarship committee. It should not be done for the purposes of building social skills or as a means of searching for a vocation. Furthermore, the goal of doing service as a blind student should not be to educate the sighted public. Service is not about what is good for the volunteer, but what is good for the person or people the volunteer is seeking to help. Sometimes those extrinsic rewards will come along as the result of service, but when service is done for the right reasons those byproducts will be far more meaningful. I encourage all students to become active servant leaders in whatever ways they can and to strive to do so solely for the intrinsic value of helping others. I also encourage parents and teachers to help their students find ways to serve that utilize their unique talents and capabilities. Charles Dickens wrote, "No one is useless who lightens the burdens of another," and he was absolutely right. Blind students can serve just as effectively and with as much sincerity and compassion as their sighted peers. Whether the project is a large-scale mission trip to a foreign country or an hour of volunteering at a community food bank, the important thing is that it is being done.
The National Federation of the Blind Community Service Group is currently working towards becoming a division. If you are interested in joining the group or aiding in the transition to division status, please contact Darian Smith for more details. You can reach him at [email protected].
by Rick Fox
From the Editor: Rick Fox is an instructor at the Computer Center for Visually Impaired People, a program affiliated with Baruch College of the City University of New York. With his wife, Debbie, he runs B&F Teaching and Technology, a business that provides access technology training and Braille instruction. He serves as vice president of the Northern Chapter of the NFB of New Jersey. This article is based on Rick's presentation on January 31, 2013, to a group of aspiring teachers of the visually impaired in the NFB's Teachers of Tomorrow Program.
It is an honor to speak to future Braille teachers. Reading is not only a key to my educational and professional productivity, but one of my life's greatest pleasures. I have many dedicated Braille and classroom teachers to thank for this.
Though I have spent fifty-eight years on this earth, I don't claim to know the keys to success in this mystery we call life. But I can point to a few guiding principles that my parents and teachers, in their best moments, laid down for me: self-respect, independence, self-confidence, and high expectations. Whatever they did to uphold these principles helped prepare me for a happy and productive adult life, and anything they did to undermine them was a hindrance. I will describe events in my early life, some that helped me and some that did not.
We have a motto in the NFB: It is respectable to be blind. I believe that being comfortable in your own skin is the cornerstone to a mature and well-adjusted personality. The respectability of blindness needs to be reinforced in our children repeatedly, through word and deed, since it runs counter to our cultural assumptions and to our natural desire to be like everyone else.
I was born two months premature, and I lost my sight at birth due to retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). Children love to hear happy stories about their origins, and I was no exception. At my repeated nagging, my mother would tell me about her fear for my very life when she went into early labor. She would tell me how my father, college football hero and US Marine during World War II, came into the delivery room to check on her and proceeded to pass out on the floor. She would describe how she was befriended by the pastor of the church our family joined and attended throughout my childhood, and how I grew from a tiny wrinkled thing to the handsome big boy I was today. This happy story, linking my birth and my blindness to a unique bond with my mother, a sense of humor, and the love of God, was the basis of my budding childhood self-respect. For this, I owe my mother an eternal debt of gratitude.
In the home where I grew up, there were certain words that we just didn't say. Most of these words had four letters, but one had five: the word blind. When my mother presented me to a salesperson to help me try on an article of clothing, she would say, "He doesn't see." This fear of the word blind corroded my self-respect. If there was something wrong with blindness, there must be something wrong with me.
When I entered fifth grade, the New Jersey Commission for the Blind wanted to introduce me to cane travel training. At first my parents were hesitant. They associated the cane with blind beggars. Their boy was getting around just fine--notwithstanding a few bloody bruises and knocked-out teeth. They were not sure they wanted their son to look blind.
A mobility instructor came to our house and spoke about my need to travel independently in college, to take buses and subways by myself, and to travel to and from work. After the instructor left, I heard some intense whispering from behind my parents' closed bedroom door. My father emerged and uttered words he would repeat many times thereafter, "Ricky, your mother and I will not always be around to provide for your well-being and security. You must learn to be independent so you can provide for yourself." From then on my parents were more than supportive concerning my travel training. On velvety spring evenings, my mother would walk with me and ask me to show her what I had learned in recent mobility lessons.
I considered my mobility instructors to be some of my greatest coaches. Spatial intelligence was not my strongest suit. My instructors challenged me to practice and improve, and I thrived under their tutelage.
By the end of my sophomore year of high school, I had completed nine months of weekly mobility lessons in Asbury Park, a small city near my school and home. I had grown pretty confident handling a busy downtown with public transportation, plenty of retail and commercial businesses, and some busy intersections controlled by traffic lights.
That summer my family sold the only house I knew and rented an apartment in Asbury Park while we awaited the completion of our new home. I told my mother that I wanted to practice what I had learned in all those mobility lessons by taking solo excursions through the city. As far as I remember, she didn't seem at all concerned, and just told me to be careful.
I never had a more exhilarating time than that summer of freedom. I had a steady summer job playing the organ in a gin mill by night, and I roamed through my newly adopted town by day. I strolled the boardwalk near the ocean, with stops to sample Belgian waffles. I took the bus to meet friends and teachers, and I met friends and relatives for lunch at my favorite restaurants. What freedom and growing self-confidence!
Since then, I have lived, studied, and worked in Rhode Island, California, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, New York again, and finally New Jersey once more. I owe my independence and confidence to my parents' decision on that night when I was in fifth grade and their committed support as I grew up.
I was born and raised in a family of high achievers. My father went to school with a blind man who became a successful judge, and he hoped I would do something similar. As I've said earlier, I had wonderful Braille instruction and good travel training. Yet, there were consistent forces and influences in my early years that conveyed messages of shame, incompetence, and inferiority due to my blindness. These forces were strong and consistent enough to impair the growth of my character, hamper the acquisition of vital skills, and blow a gaping hole in my self-confidence as I reached adulthood.
Because I was blind, a few of my teachers silently conspired with me to give me grades I did not earn. They knew it and I knew it, though we never spoke about it. My sixth-grade teacher tested me orally at times when the rest of the class took a quiz in their seats. I usually did pretty well, but if not, she all but told me the correct answers with hints and her tone of voice.
During the first week of school, my eighth-grade math teacher asked me how I proposed to take his tests, which he handed to me in print. "No problem," I said. "I'll do the test with a reader at home."
The system worked fine until I was out sick for a couple of days and missed learning a key concept. Too embarrassed to ask for extra help, I found a buddy, an A student, who agreed to fill out all of my subsequent math tests for me. My math teacher must have been aware that something like this was going on. Though I failed all properly proctored tests, such as finals and midterms, and couldn't participate effectively in class, I ended up with a C at the end of each marking period. My math buddy stayed with me in classes until the end of my pathetic math career, and he was always there to lend a "helping hand." All future math teachers were similarly cooperative.
By the time I approached high school graduation, I had been taught two diametrically opposed philosophies of blindness and ways to look at myself, philosophies that would compete inside me for supremacy for years. The positive philosophy said I would go on to college, where I would get ready for a job, a family, a home, and all the rights and responsibilities of citizenship. When my parents and most teachers expected high standards of achievement and behavior from me and held me accountable for falling short of those standards, they were telling me they had faith in my abilities to function effectively as an adult and to live a full and happy life. When I succeeded, my self-confidence got a boost, and their faith in me became my belief in myself.
The negative philosophy said that blindness would prevent me from reaching my potential in every area of life. When some teachers gave me grades I did not earn and did not hold me accountable for bad behavior, they were teaching me that my blindness prevented me from meeting their usual standards, and that I wouldn't be able to cut it in the real world as an adult. Whenever that lesson was taught, it eroded my self-confidence, not to mention the skills I was supposed to learn.
In college, my self-doubts often overpowered my self-confidence and sense of adventure, resulting in a paralyzing depression. "What makes you think you can succeed here or anywhere else?" the negative voice would sneer derisively. "Whenever the going got tough, somebody was always there to give you the right answer or erase your zero or take your test for you. You're a fake, a phony, a fraud. Your idea that you can compete effectively as a blind person is a sham, so don't even try."
The road to recovery from depression is often circuitous, but the NFB was prominent in mine. Who would be more qualified to help me sort out my feelings about blindness than other blind people with similar experiences and a tested, successful philosophy? When my self-confidence was at its lowest and I was about to give up, the NFB's insistent message of optimism, high spirits, high standards, and love for one another helped me hold on and keep going.
I finally learned that forgiveness—of myself and others—is the best way to be free from the shackles of the past. I learned to live in the present and concentrate my energies and hope upon the future.
My parents never knew about these actions of mine. It never would have occurred to them that some teachers would behave as they did. Please guard the future of your blind students by knowing what kind of work they're doing and how they're doing it. Are their teachers holding them to the same standards as the rest of the class?
I hope you can profit in some small way from my experiences. Thanks for listening. My best wishes for your success and happiness and for the success and happiness of your future students.
by José Nogueras
From the Editor: Participation in sports is an exciting way to test one's limits and bond with others. In this article, José Nogueras describes how running helped him bond with his son, Jayden, and showed them both that disability need not be a barrier to fun and achievement.
Our son, Jayden, was diagnosed with septo-optic dysplasia (SOD) and other brain abnormalities before he was born, so we knew from the beginning that he would have some unique challenges. When he was an infant he started to receive early intervention services. A stream of professionals visited our home to work with him and to teach us ways to help him. Jayden's physical therapist, occupational therapist, speech therapist, and early intervention educator each made invaluable contributions.
From the first, Jayden showed us that he was a very resilient child. He was determined to crawl and later to stand on his own, and he was adept at getting food into his mouth. With each new improvement, the team set still higher goals for him.
During Jayden's early years we were living in Virginia Beach, Virginia. We enrolled Jayden in Hoyt Virginia Beach, or Hoyt VB, a road racing program for people with disabilities. Hoyt VB is a ride-along program. Runners push participants who ride in jogging chairs.
After a year in the program, Jayden began to express his admiration for Dennis Welch, one of the runners who teamed with him. We began to think about the possibilities. In May 2011 we visit Rick and Dick Hoyt, the founders of Hoyt VB, in Holland, Massachusetts. During that weekend visit Jayden ran his first fifty-yard dash.
When Jayden started running, even a mile race wore him out. He was exhausted when he reached the finish line. We focused on teaching him goal setting and time management skills. Gradually he realized he would have to train and work hard to reach his goals. He practiced running on neighborhood streets and in our city park. As his endurance improved, he entered more races. He saw the product of his hard work. Eventually he entered races in different states. We experience many new places and get to know a lot of great people.
One thing Jayden loves about running is that he can enjoy the sport just like everybody else. He wears the same shoes and clothes as the other runners. I run along with him to make sure he is aware of any obstacles on the course. Jayden does not see my participation as an adaptation--to him the event is "a race with Dad." Running gives us the chance to spend wonderful one-on-one time together and to form a close bond.
We now live in Bourne, Massachusetts, a town on Cape Cod. Jayden's school, Peebles Elementary, has been fantastic. The teachers do an excellent job of making sure he can access the curriculum and take part in school activities. Jayden is an active little boy, and he loves P.E. class. He really admires his P.E. teachers.
Inspired by our experiences with Hoyt VB, I helped found myTEAM TRIUMPH-Massachusetts. myTEAM TRIUMPH is an athletic ride-along program for children, teens, and adults with disabilities, including veterans. It is hard to describe the lasting camaraderie that running brings to a community. You can learn more about myTEAM TRIUMPH by visiting our website, <myteamtriumph-ma.org>.
It is very important for parents to teach their children that disability does not necessarily mean inability. Jayden likes to tell people our family motto: Finishing Is Winning. We apply this motto to running, schoolwork, and daily tasks, and it helps Jayden meet his goals.
by Jerry Whittle
Reprinted from the Braille Monitor, December 2012, Volume 55, No. 11
From the Editor: Until a blind man drove an automobile at the Daytona 500 in 2011, driving was often listed as one of those things that blind people just can't do. Another activity that can be crossed off that proverbial list is playing the game of football. In this article, Jerry Whittle describes a football game as it is played by students and staff of the Louisiana Center for the Blind (LCB) in Ruston, Louisiana. Jerry recently retired after a long career as Braille instructor at the LCB. He is known as the author of many plays that have been performed by Center students at NFB national conventions.
It is time for another NFB football game at the Louisiana Center for the Blind. The summer sun has finally given way to a cool, crisp October morning that finds the big Louisiana Center for the Blind bus rolling up to the Ruston recreational park. Students and staff begin pouring onto the field, some carrying big rolls of plastic mats and some hefting shoulder pads and helmets. The atmosphere is boisterous and exhilarating as several players begin engaging in a little trash talking.
Robert Wilkerson, a student from Panama City, Florida, starts the badinage by stating, "This is a man's game, man. Nobody should be playing unless you realize that."
Someone else retorts, "Hey, man, we're out here to have some fun, not hurt somebody."
The Center's computer instructor, Josh Boudreaux, and other helpers unroll the seventy-five-foot mats and spread them down the sidelines. The mats are fifty yards long and are placed fifteen yards apart. What is being constructed is a playing surface half the length of a regulation football field. A forty-five-foot rope is used to identify the width of the field.
Next the crew places a mat across the field at the goal line and sets a large radio at the back of the end zone. The Zack Brown Band is bellowing out a song about relaxing someplace or other.
Students and staff members begin to put on their uniforms. All of them are wearing royal blue jerseys with black numerals on the back and a picture of a football across the chest. We affectionately call it our NFB football. The tricky part while suiting up is to keep the sleepshades on while the blue helmet is pulled on from the back of the skull. Chin straps are snapped, and the nervous anxiety and excitement are palpable. This is the first time some of the students have played football or worn a helmet and pads.
One of the instructors walks up with the beeping football and a long chain, worn like a necklace, with a cowbell attached. "Here are the football and the cowbell that the quarterback on each team wears, and here are the towel and bells that he wears in the center of his pants in the back. Listen for the sound and find the quarterback," he says.
NFB football was designed for two five-person teams, but unfortunately only eight or nine people have ever wanted to play. Usually we play with two three-person teams. Each team has ten plays to score a touchdown from forty yards away. Each gets three chances to score a touchdown. Only the quarterback can run with the ball, and he or she moves toward the sound of the radio. The mats warn the player that he or she is about to go out of bounds.
Before the snap, the offense state their positions, and they cannot move. They might say, "Blocker, blocker, quarterback." The referee announces, "Offense set." Then the defense set up, but they do not reveal where they are located. The referee asks, "Defense set?" The captain announces, "Defense set." Then no talking is allowed as the quarterback says simply, "Go."
Bodies begin to move around. The crackling sound of pads smashing together and much grunting and laughing ensue as the defense converges on the cowbell. Bodies fly, and a large pile of players falls on top of a student named Tarik Suber, the hapless quarterback.
Tarik next tries an end sweep, but he is so excited that he fails to notice that his feet have hit the mat. He goes out of bounds with three defensemen in hot pursuit. Spectators yell, "Out of bounds!" but his momentum carries him into a chain-link fence, and he comes to a stop. He decides to sit out a few plays, and someone else takes his place.
The offense scores despite the efforts of Ernic Eyma, a six-foot-seven, two-hundred-sixty-pound defenseman, who almost yanks the towel out before Josh Bishop, a student from Alabama, dashes across the mat for a touchdown. The team opts for a two-point conversion from ten yards out, rather than the easier one-point try from five yards away. They run right up the middle and score.
The teams rest at the midpoint or half time, drinking much water and Gatorade to replenish and rejuvenate. Robert keeps up the banter.
"Man, I haven't played football since high school in Florida. This is fun. I've got my number 25 again. I played safety and cornerback in high school, but I like quarterback; that draws all the lightning. Wish we had some more people to play."
Lakeisha from Georgia overhears Robert from her spot on the sidelines, and she says, "I'll play next time; I just wanted to see what it was like."
"This is a man's game, Keish," Robert retorts. "You don't want to run into old Josh Boudreaux; he's like Troy Palamano out here. Man, he's all over the place. I thought I was gone for the TD one time, and somehow he found me and wrestled me to the ground."
DuWayne, a student from Louisville, Kentucky, agrees, "Yeah, and old Bishop ain't bad either, but I haven't played quarterback yet. Different outcome when I run the ball."
The students resume the struggle in the lush grass of the outfield at the baseball diamond. After three tries at a touchdown, the game depends on one series of downs. If Robert's team does not score, the game is over. They fail to score when the opposing team pushes them out of bounds on their tenth and last attempt at about the ten-yard line, scattering sideline observers in several directions.
As some of the students and staff members begin to roll up the mats and carry the extra equipment to the waiting bus, Kelvin Smith, a student from Georgia, asks, "When are we gonna play again?"
Robert excitedly responds, "How about next Saturday? I graduate in two weeks, and I want to play again. Listen, I just got an idea. We could play that morning and then come back to the activity center and have a cookout. We can't drive no cars, but we can still tailgate back at the apartments."
"We have the chapter carwash next weekend," Josh Boudreaux reminds him.
"Well shoot, I could come back from Florida. You just call me when you play again, and I'll be back," Robert says emphatically. "We want some revenge now that we know how to play the game."
After the game the students and staff members head for Griff's for some juicy double giant hamburgers and fries. Some even opt for the triple, affectionately known as the triple bypass burger, and they wash it down with chocolate shakes. Still boisterous and excited about playing under the pads, and about surviving with only minor contusions and abrasions and plenty of memories, the students vow to have a rematch.
We first tried playing NFB football without helmets and shoulder pads, but it quickly became apparent that we needed protection. Thanks to many fundraising efforts and the generosity of Dr. Maurer and the National Federation of the Blind, we were able to buy thirteen helmets and pads and many NFB jerseys. We would like to offer a challenge to any group of five players to come down and play us while the weather is cool. We will furnish everything to the team except your mouthpiece and the courage and temerity to take us on. No trash talking, but second place won't be too bad for your first try!
by Amber Bobnar
Reprinted with permission from <www.wonderbaby.org>.
From the Editor: "Get it from Quota Funds." Parents of blind and deaf-blind children often hear this advice when they need to obtain educational materials. Easy to say--but what are Quota Funds, and how does the system actually work? In this article, Amber Bobnar demystifies the Quota Fund program and explains how it serves as a resource for parents and teachers.
Have you heard of APH (American Printing House for the Blind) Quota Funds? I had heard Quota Funds mentioned at IEP meetings, but I never understood how the funding really works or who is eligible for this program. I decided to do a little research, and this is what I found.
APH Quota Funds are based on a federal law called the Act to Promote the Education of the Blind. This act, passed by the US Congress in 1879, recognizes that students who are blind or deaf-blind, with or without additional disabilities, require special materials to access the school curriculum.
Rather than telling school districts or individual families that it's their responsibility to purchase these items on their own, Congress sets aside funds every year so that schools can buy blind students the materials they need. These materials range from Braillers and Braille textbooks to items that facilitate self-help or sensory development, but they only include items that can be purchased through APH. These funds cover a variety of items that your child may need in school, so it's important to understand how to access them.
Each school district or education department in the United States has someone called an Ex Officio Trustee who decides how Quota Funds are spent. The Ex Officio Trustee is responsible for approving and processing all orders, as well as conducting an annual census of eligible students in the area. This census is really important, because the number helps Congress determine how much money to put into the account for each school district every year.
You can find a list of Ex Officio Trustees, ordered by state, on the APH website, <www.aph.org>. Just look up your state and find your Ex Officio Trustee. If your child is not on the Ex Officio Trustee's registry, you can ask him or her to add your child and develop the best way to serve your child in the program. If there is an underserved population in your district, it is always possible that an additional Ex Officio Trustee could be added to your area, but most likely you will work with the person who is listed in the directory.
The law is actually very inclusive. It includes all blind and visually impaired public-school students in a school district, as well as infants and toddlers in early intervention programs, students in parochial and private schools, and students who are homeschooled. As long as the student's educational program meets the guidelines and/or procedures in effect within each individual state, and as long as the student has a written education plan (an IFSP or an IEP), the child is eligible for the program.
Quota Funds can only be used to purchase products that APH sells. On the APH shopping site and in its catalogs, the items NOT available for purchase with Quota Funds are clearly marked. Most of the things APH sells are Quota eligible, but there are a few things that APH sells from other vendors. For a product to be eligible to be sold for Quota Funds, it can't be commercially available anywhere else, or, if it is, it has to be adapted in some way to make it unique to APH.
The answer to this question depends on what the federal budget has allocated for a particular fiscal year. In the recent past it's been over $300 per student.
When you hear that a product is "available on Quota," this really means that it has been approved for purchase with federal Quota Funds, not that it can necessarily be purchased solely with the per capita amount of one student.
Many of APH's products exceed the per capita amount for each child. APH strongly encourages states to operate within the framework of an Instructional Materials Center. In that model, products are held by the Materials Center until they are needed by a student. They are then loaned, or checked out, to that student. The loan might be for a year or it might be for several years; it just depends on the student's needs. In this manner, states are better able to leverage the funds they receive and provide more products for a greater number of students.
Will every school district be able to purchase every single thing every teacher or student wants? Probably not. But by warehousing materials and distributing them as they are needed, the school district can meet a lot of needs.
If items are purchased through your school district with federal money, do they belong to you or to the state? Can you use them at home?
Technically the items belong to your school district, but their use depends on your child's needs. Items purchased for infants in early intervention programs or for students who are homeschooled will most likely need to be used at home. Where a product "lives" is determined by the Ex Officio Trustee. The decision depends on the student, his or her needs, and what it is the district is purchasing.
Ultimately, the program would like to see products used in such a way that the greatest number of students can benefit from them. Sometimes that means a long-term loan. Sometimes it means that a product stays with a child, and sometimes it means a product may be shared by several students in a classroom.
If your child is using material that is essential to her day-to-day work in class, it would make sense that the material move with her as she advances from one grade to another. Again, this totally depends on your child, her needs, and the material she is using. If your child moves from one school district to another (or from one state to another), the material may not move with her. But maybe you can look at it as an opportunity to "upgrade" and get something newer!
If you want to purchase items for your child through the APH Quota Fund, you probably should begin by talking to your child's teacher or your school district's special education director. If they are unfamiliar with the program, use the APH directory and contact your Ex Officio Trustee. Because this is a program administered through federal funds, you as a parent don't register your child or file paperwork requesting materials; the process needs to go through your school district and the Ex Officio Trustee. This is actually kind of nice, if you think about it. For once you won't be the one responsible for filling out forms!
If you need more information about how this program works, you may contact APH directly at [email protected], or contact Janie Blome, Director of Field Services, at (502) 899-2367; (800) 223-1839, ext. 367; [email protected].
by Ana Martinez Larumbe
From the Editor: Ana Martinez is fifteen and is mainstreamed at a high school in Mexico City. In this article she writes about her life as a blind student in Mexico and describes her experience in a summer program at the Colorado Center for the Blind.
My name is Ana Martinez Larumbe. I live in Mexico City. My twin sister, Cecilia, and I have both been blind since birth. We have always attended school with sighted students.
In Mexico the resources for the blind in mainstream schools are not very good. First of all, there is no such thing as an itinerant teacher of the visually impaired (TVI). Also, the school does not provide any books in Braille. If you want to have a school book in Braille, first you have to ask for a copy of the book in print. Then you have to scan it and send it to the rehabilitation center for the blind. There they emboss the book in Braille for you.
At my school none of the computers has a screen reader. Blind students cannot take technology class because the computers are not accessible.
Now I'm going to talk about the rehabilitation center. The resources of the center are not very good either. The teachers that work there just teach very basic blindness skills. For example, they just teach you uncontracted Braille. They don't teach contracted Braille, orientation and mobility, home management, or technology.
Now I'm going to talk about the products for the blind that are sold in Mexico. The products here are very good except for the cane. The canes here are very short. I mean, the longest cane they sell here is only forty-eight inches. I think that is not good. If an adult wants to buy a cane, it will be useless because it is too short.
In Mexico most people think that if you are blind you can't do much of anything. They treat you as if you are helpless. Some of the mothers of blind children think that their kid cannot do anything by themselves. For example, one day when I was nine years old I was at the rehabilitation center. I asked another blind girl, who was two years older than I was, if she wanted to go to the playground with me. She said yes, but when her mother saw us she told us that if we wanted to go to the playground, she had to go with us because it was dangerous to go by ourselves.
At my school some of the teachers talk to me as if I were a five-year-old child. My classmates think that I cannot do anything. I do not get the chance to participate in any extracurricular activities.
I have met many blind adults in Mexico City. A lot of them work as teachers at the rehabilitation center. I haven't met blind people here who have any other kind of job.
One day Cecelia and I were having lunch with our mother. Our mother suggested that we look for a summer camp for the blind where we could learn some blindness life skills. We got excited about the idea and started to search online. The first program we found was at the Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton, Massachusetts. We thought it looked like a very cool program, but for some reason we decided to keep looking, in case there might be something even better out there.
Then we found the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB), sponsored by the National Federation of the Blind. As soon as we read about the CCB, Cecelia said, "I'm going to go to that center!" But I said that even though the CCB was very cool, we should still keep looking. There might be something out there that was better yet.
I got maps of the United States and Canada, and we searched for summer programs for the blind in every state and province. We found a lot of programs, but the CCB was the coolest of all. Cecelia and I spent three weeks there in the summer of 2012.
I had studied English at school, but at first when I was in Colorado I had a hard time with the language, and I didn't talk much. I think my English got a lot better while I was at the center. My favorite activity in the program was cane travel. I learned about the long white cane and how it could help me travel independently. I learned how to listen for traffic when I crossed the street. In Mexico I don't feel safe traveling by myself because people don't respect the driving rules. In every street the traffic is different. I mean, it is not like in the US, where there is a pattern with parallel and perpendicular traffic.
Besides cane travel, we studied home management, technology, and Braille. I really liked hanging out with my friends at the apartments. They told me a lot about how things work in the States, such as having a TVI at school.
The time I spent at the CCB was the best three weeks of my life! I would love to go back for the summer program they have for high school students. That program costs more than seven thousand dollars, and I need to find a way to pay for it.
After I finish high school, I hope to attend a university in the United States. Someday I would like to become an orientation and mobility instructor and teach at a school or center in the US I want to learn enough so I can teach other blind people to be independent.
by Penny Duffy
From the Editor: Parents sometimes feel that they will be unwelcome and out of their depth at professional conferences. Yet, as Penny Duffy explains, parents can both learn and contribute to conferences that are largely geared toward professionals in the blindness field. Penny serves as president of the New Hampshire Parents of Blind Children, and her work appears frequently in Future Reflections. You can visit her blog at <visionfora.blogspot.com>.
About two months ago, while browsing on the website of the National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (or NLS for short), I tripped over information about an upcoming conference called the Braille Summit. "NLS invites you to participate in the NLS Braille Summit at Perkins School for the Blind in Watertown, Massachusetts, June 19-21, 2013, to help determine the best ways for libraries to promote and support Braille literacy," I read. "The conference will bring together librarians, Braille literacy professionals, Braille readers, and other stakeholders."
At first I ignored the notice. It didn't say anything about parents of children who read Braille, so I decided it wasn't for me. Then I went back and read it again. I am a stakeholder, I thought. I have an interest in NLS's services. I am the parent of a child who reads Braille. My daughter receives her Braille books from the Perkins Regional NLS Library.
The conference was to take place the week my kids finished school. I checked with my husband, Chris, and decided that I could go--in fact, that I should go. The Perkins School for the Blind is about an hour and a half drive from our home in New Hampshire. It would be a long commute, but I couldn't afford a hotel room. I would have to drive into Boston-area traffic every day of the conference, but I decided to register.
So, on June 19th, 20th, and 21st, I drove each day to the Braille Summit. I am going to give a detailed, and perhaps wordy, summary of my experience. If you are too busy to read everything I have to say, please watch the video of the panel on Braille Literacy and Promotion at <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2hRYsks7Jj0>.
On Wednesday, June 19th, I dropped Abby off at Track Camp (yes, she went to Track Camp and loved it!) and drove to the Perkins School in the early afternoon. The summit started after lunch. I was proud that I made it on time. After I registered, they handed me a name badge and a packet that included the final agenda. On the cover of the agenda, in big bold letters, I read: "THE FUTURE OF BRAILLE."
I did a quick double take when I read those words. All of the other titles for conference events said, "That All May Read." Something about the phrase "The Future of Braille" makes me light-headed. This is serious business! A title is just a title, but it sets the tone for all that follows.
While the primary focus of the summit was on NLS and how to improve its Braille services, I think the focus was much broader. Some of the discussions may change the landscape of Braille in the future. I don't mean changes in the mechanics of Braille, such as the adoption of Unified English Braille (UEB). I mean changes in a larger sense that is hard to express. Truly we were talking about "The Future of Braille."
I quickly realized that people from all over the world were attending the summit, representatives from some of the world's major Braille and blindness organizations and companies. I was just a parent, and I'm pretty certain I was the only "just a parent" there. A few other parents of blind children attended, but they were all there in some professional role. Everyone seemed impressed by my presence, but I didn't feel I had done anything remarkable by attending. I was sure that many more parents would have done the same if the conference had been promoted to them.
So many smart and interesting people were at the conference! Many of them already knew each other very well, and at times I felt as though I was crashing a class reunion. That was okay; I was there to learn and to share my ideas. The chance to be so close to so many interesting people who love Braille as much and even more than I do made the trip more than worthwhile.
The day's agenda consisted of welcoming remarks, a presentation on Braille policy, and a panel of Braille readers. Many comments stood out for me. I heard the alarming statement that Braille is on life support. There was talk about Braille on demand and the idea that the model of "perfect Braille" needs to be adjusted. I heard that we have to focus on the positive aspects of Braille, and that the public view of Braille has to change.
That afternoon we heard an announcement that the US Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), had released a policy letter on Braille teaching. You can find this letter in MS Word and PDF formats at
At the end of the day, we had the first of six breakout sessions. The group was split into four subgroups. Because the groups were randomly assigned, I was in a new group for each of the six breakout sessions. This system made the experience fun and interesting. For each topic we shared our ideas about what was important. All ideas were accepted. Each group member was given three tokens, and we voted on the group's ideas as we chose. In other words, you could vote by giving one token for an idea, or if you felt very strongly, you could vote all your tokens for one idea. It was really hard when all of your tokens were gone and you had no votes left! It was a neat and successful model.
Most of the real work of the conference took place during the breakout sessions. One suggestion that came up was the idea that NLS might provide Braille displays to its patrons. (It's nothing more than an idea at this point!) The other major topic was the idea that NLS could run a "Braille Is Cool" campaign--again, just an idea so far.
At the end of the first day there was a reception. I almost didn't go, but I decided to stay and avoid the rush-hour traffic. I am very glad I stayed. There was yummy food, and I had the chance to talk to some interesting people. At the reception they announced the release of the third edition of a book called World Braille Usage. I knew nothing about this book, and I was surprised to learn that the first edition was released more than fifty years ago. More information can be found at <www.perkins.org/worldbraille>. The book describes the many ways that Braille is used around the world.
I started the day with quite an adventure in traffic, and I arrived an hour late. I missed the first panel, which was on Braille selection, but I made it in time for the first breakout session. I'm a bit of a book nerd, so I was fascinated to learn about the process by which books are selected and released to the NLS collection. Later I heard an exciting pie-in-the-sky panel on Braille technology.
This was the last day of the conference. I got there on time, and I was very happy about that. The day started with a wonderful panel on Braille literacy. There were also two final breakout sessions. As an added bonus, there was a "Show and Share" time when organizations demonstrated some of their products. I had the opportunity to thank Perkins Products for my family's wonderful visit from Marty the Smart Brailler; we had Marty on loan.
During the last breakout session I suggested that conferences such as the Braille Summit should include blind children and teens who are Braille readers. After all, the future of Braille is, quite literally, in their hands. Everyone seemed to think that was a good idea.
I missed the closing statements and the final report on the breakout sessions. I had to leave early or I would end up in the car for hours. On a Friday, late afternoon traffic on 93 North is always horrible. Fortunately, I was home in time to pick up Abby at Track Camp. Because the conference was captured on video, I could watch all of the sessions I missed when I got home. You can find the videos at <www.pathstoliteracy.org/resources/proceedings-first-ever-braille-summit>.
Looking back, what do I think? What did I take away from the conference? I learned that I, personally, need to work harder to promote Braille. I also learned that I, personally, love Braille. This was quite a revelation, considering that I really can't read it yet. I plan to take steps to change that. In fact, I have enrolled in my first Braille course through the Hadley School for the Blind.
I am very passionate about Braille literacy. I feel passionately that all of us, as members of the blind community, need to work harder at promoting Braille and sharing how important it is. All at once I am excited and concerned over the future of Braille. The summit was an excellent event.
I am grateful to NLS for keeping this event open to stakeholders and for encouraging all participants to share their ideas. A closed event would have been much less powerful. Many of the participants were Braille readers who came because they love Braille and wanted to be there.
The whole event was a love letter to Braille. How fitting that it ended on the first day of the 2013 Braille Challenge finals! Tell me, how great is that?
by Rena Smith
From the Editor: Rena (pronounced Renee) Smith serves as president of the NFB of Nevada. In this article she explains how Nevada hosted a regional conference for blind students.
On the weekend of March 22-24, 2013, the National Federation of the Blind of Nevada hosted our first regional student seminar. Ron Gardner of Utah suggested the idea when he attended our Nevada state convention as our national representative. For a while Ron and I talked about working on a seminar together. However, he became very busy with activities assigned to him by the National Center for the Blind in Baltimore. By that time I was fully committed to the project, and I made up my mind to move it forward.
The seminar grew out of a year of careful planning. I assembled a committee in Nevada, and we took part in several meetings with staff at the National Center. Members of the Center staff gave us their total support. We also held teleconference meetings with students from Nevada and surrounding states. Darian Smith, our regional coordinator from the National Association of Blind Students (NABS), provided tremendous help.
One day as I was sorting through my email, I discovered a message from NFB President Marc Maurer, letting me know that he would attend the seminar. I was so shocked that I didn't quite believe what I read. I emailed Dr. Maurer and asked him if he was serious. He was, and I felt as though I was in heaven! Dr. Maurer had not been to an NFB event in Nevada since 1997.
As school and personal obligations mounted, many of our Nevada students became less involved in the planning process. Shaetonna Jackson and I wound up carrying most of the responsibility. After countless telephone calls and emails on the listservs, we secured commitments from a set of excellent presenters. We held a series of meetings with the Fortune Inn Hotel to negotiate guest room rates, conference rooms, and a banquet menu.
After all this work was done, we started recruiting students to attend the conference. At that point my stress level really went up. Would students actually come? How many would attend? Our count was low, and of course I stressed and stressed about it--but the show had to go on!
Our opening day, March 22, started with our Meet and Greet event. We served finger foods, soft drinks, coffee, and water. We made new friends and reunited with old ones. Many members enjoyed the opportunity to sit and talk to Dr. and Mrs. Maurer.
Because this seminar was geared to students, we included the following session topics:
The seminar generated a lot of information sharing and led to some positive outcomes. Nevada formed an actual NABS chapter and elected officers. We also formed a POBC division. Nevada is on the move! Did I forget to mention that our seminar was available to people across the country via live streaming?
I hope that student seminars will be held in our region every year. In fact, I have received calls and emails from Arizona, California, and Colorado, expressing an interest in hosting the seminar in 2014. I will enjoy helping any state that wants to coordinate a seminar next year and in the years to come.
It's always helpful to review what worked well and what could have gone better. What would I do differently next time? First, I think I would choose a different venue. Secondly, I would like to see more participation by students from Nevada. I would like to see other states triple the number of students in attendance.
I wish to thank the following presenters: Dr. and Mrs. Marc Maurer, National Federation of the Blind; Natalie Shaheen, NFB Jernigan Institute; Brent Batron and Antonio, Colorado Center for the Blind; Carol Castellano, Parents of Blind Children of New Jersey; Elaine Robertson and Joan Rachmel, Bureau of Services for the Blind of Las Vegas; and Anita Franz, Law and Advocacy, Las Vegas. I also would like to thank all the students from Utah, Arizona, California, Colorado, and Nevada who took part in the seminar, and every parent who attended. Special thanks go to Shaetonna Jackson for all her hard work and for putting up with me and my stress.
by Carol Castellano
From the Editor: Carol Castellano is the author of four books on the education of blind children, including Making It Work and Getting Ready for College Begins in Third Grade. She is a past president of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) and served for many years on the NOPBC board of directors. She also served as president of the Parents of Blind Children of New Jersey (POBC-NJ) since its founding in 1991 until the spring of 2013.
POBC-NJ has been busy. In November 2012 we participated in the state convention of the NFB of New Jersey. We presented a workshop called "Family Hands-On Science and Engineering," featuring NJ's famous science team, Marilyn Winograd and Dr. Lillian Rankel [see the article "Hands-on Science" elsewhere in this issue]. Then, in conjunction with the New Jersey Student Division, we hosted "Getting Blind/Visually Impaired Kids Ready for a Job." The workshop featured NFB national representative Kevan Worley and Eric Guillory of the Louisiana Center for the Blind.
In April we held our annual spring seminar. This year's conference was called "When I Grow Up." We were lucky to have Eric Guillory with us again, and he gave an inspiring talk on competence and confidence. We also heard about tactile graphics from Shirley Keller of Creative Adaptations for Learning (CAL). Attorney Jayne Wesler spoke about children's rights in education, and other speakers talked about library services, music therapy, hippotherapy, baby development, Braille, self-advocacy, independent living skills, technology, and the role of the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. A special thank you goes to the children--Jillian Milton, Matthew Whitaker, and Andrew Chin--for presenting a wonderful panel called "Life in the Fast Lane." We also thank John Reiff, Liz Burns, Ed Goodman, Amanda Ranallo, Laurie Landy, Pat McKinley, Joe Ruffalo, Evelyn Valdez, and Sherlock Washington for giving of their time and talents.
At the end of the day, POBC of New Jersey had a historic moment. Many of you know that I was the cofounder of POBC-NJ. I have served as president since the organization began in 1991, and I planned to step down this year. With great delight I announce that Holly Miller is the new POBC-NJ president! I hope you will all join me in congratulating Holly! New members of the board are Kenneth Chin, Vera Hough, Alison Stephens, and Liz Valois. Rounding out the board are returning members Linda Halm, Kathy Gabry, Mary Colasurdo, Tom Ferry, Susan Flynn, Hannah Hashash, Carla Richardson, May Whitaker, and me. We thank Linda Thomas and Patty Tumminello for their past board service.
This year the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC) celebrates thirty years of service to families. The continuing hard work and dedication of past and present board members allow the NOPBC to support parents in helping their children change what it means to be blind.
At the NOPBC Annual Meeting on July 3, 2013, a new board was elected. The NOPBC thanks outgoing board members Jim Beyer, Wingfield Bouchard, Amber Hall, Dave Hammel, Zina Lewis, and Trudy Pickrel we welcome six new members and our returning members to the Board. The NOPBC proudly announces the members of our 2013-2014 Board:
President: Carlton Anne Cook Walker (Pennsylvania)
First Vice-President: Andrea Beasley (Wisconsin)
Second Vice President: Kim Cunningham (Texas)
Secretary: Pamela Gebert (Alaska)
Treasurer: Pat Renfranz (Utah)
President Emerita: Barbara Cheadle (Maryland)
Jean Bening (Minnesota)
Laura Bostick (Louisiana)
Denise Colton (Utah)
Bill Cucco (New Jersey)
Rosina Foster (Missouri)
Teresa Graham (Maryland)
Stephanie Kieszak-Holloway (Georgia)
Belinda Martinez (Nevada)
Holly Miller (New Jersey)
Sandra Oliver (Texas)
Congratulations to the new NOPBC Board!
Edited by Sharon Maneki
Reviewed by Lynda Zwinger
Integrating Print and Braille: A Recipe for Literacy
National Federation of the Blind, n.d.
From the Editor: Lynda Zwinger serves as president of the Parents of Blind Children of Arizona. She describes herself as "mother to Isaac the Incredible."
In this collection of well-chosen and well-integrated essays, Sharon Maneki has put together an invaluable resource for parents, teachers, and school administrators. That very un-useful dichotomy of Braille versus print is, I hope, finally laid to rest by the research, personal testimony, and thoughtful challenges presented by some of our most passionate advocates for and teachers of blind and visually impaired children.
This book--this treasure trove--has its roots in a 2009 consortium sponsored by the NFB "to improve the literacy skills of students with limited vision." The group decided to develop a new assessment tool to determine more effectively which students should learn to read Braille, print, or both Braille and print. The group also decided to produce a publication to help parents and teachers ensure that the dual reader has adequate skill in Braille reading and writing to enable him/her to leave the school system with strong literacy skills.
The teachers in the consortium provided case studies and teaching strategies to strengthen the teaching of Braille reading and writing to students who are dual readers. The group also offered ideas on how the student can obtain enough instruction and practice to achieve speed and fluency in Braille reading. (See Foreword.)
Grounded in the familiar pragmatism of the Federation--blindness is an inconvenience, not a tragedy--this collection basically rolls up its sleeves and offers the frazzled parent (and teacher!) a set of good, straightforward, plain old practical guidelines for helping our children achieve literacy. The book is divided into five chapters:
1. Literacy and the Decision to Integrate Print and Braille
2. Attitudes: An Essential Ingredient
3. Enhancing Vision through Touch
4. Creating the Dual Media Integration Plan
5. Read, Read, Read--There Is No Substitute
The book closes with a list of very useful references and of sources for acquiring Braille books.
Within each of the five chapters, the reader will find a wealth of empirical, practical, and personal information presented with the warmth of an afternoon coffee klatch but packed with the accumulated wisdom and experience of our best teachers and researchers, of "been there done that" parents, and, perhaps most powerful of all, the irreplaceable wisdom and testimony of that group of informants the NFB always turns to first: blind people themselves. The most important lesson this book has to offer all of us, it seems to me, is that there is not a single, one-size-fits-all approach to literacy for blind and visually impaired people. Where one person prefers to use print with the necessary accommodation tools at work and Braille at home, another person might choose to approach his or her lifelong literacy with the reverse approach.
The overall metaphor the collection employs is that of the "recipe": full literacy might be thought of as the celebratory cake; what goes into the mix is the question this book helps us answer. It includes the pertinent research data, relevant pedagogical approaches to particular issues, and calm and practical advice for how to advocate and what to advocate for. Perhaps most important for the parent new to the world of fighting for literacy for his or her child, it contains concrete tips on how to translate the goal of full literacy into the lingua franca of the IEP.
Inspiring, compelling, useful, energizing, and educational, Integrating Print and Braille is a must-read for all of us, and yet another of many occasions for us to feel gratitude and joy in this wonderful family to which we are privileged to belong.
4340 East-West Highway, Suite 350
Bethesda, MD 20814
Contact: Jennifer Laszlo Mizrahi, (240) 482-8218
Office: (240) 744-0546
RespectAbility USA is a brand-new, national, nonpartisan organization whose mission is to reshape attitudes so that people with disabilities can more fully participate in and contribute to society. It works to empower people with disabilities to achieve as much of the American dream as their abilities and efforts permit. The organization is proud to announce fall fellowships and an ongoing program in Washington, DC, for four outstanding leaders at a time. Fellows will work for twenty-five to forty hours a week for one to two months. Applicants must have completed their junior year of college. There is no tuition cost, and fellows will be awarded $250 a month for transportation. Candidates must explain in a cover letter why the fellowship is of interest to them and what skills they bring to the program. To apply, send a cover letter and résumé by email as soon as possible.
2012-13 Shutzer Fellowship in Computer Science
Towson University, MD
Jonathan Lazar was awarded a 2012-2013 Shutzer Fellowship in Computer Science from Towson University to study web-based interfaces that are inaccessible to people with disabilities and how those interfaces lead to forms of discrimination that are illegal under US law. As part of the project, he will write a book on the topic and will collaborate on research with the Harvard Law School Project on Disability. Lazar has published more than 120 articles in books, journals, and conference proceedings. His most recent book is Research Methods in Human-Computer Interaction (Wiley, 2010). In 2010 he received a Dr. Jacob Bolotin Award from the National Federation of the Blind.
Bookshare is thrilled to announce that Springer, the leading global scientific publisher, has signed an agreement to provide Bookshare with world rights to its titles. Springer is home to the world's largest scientific, technical, and medical ebook collection and published more than 7,500 titles in 2012. The first major STEM publisher to commit to making books accessible at this scale, Springer has taken a leading role to ensure that students with disabilities have access to critical scientific resources. As a result of this agreement, Springer will deliver over ten thousand titles to Bookshare in ePub format, followed by thousands of new titles annually. ePub books will be converted to DAISY and other readily accessible formats for Bookshare readers. Bookshare applauds Springer for recognizing that individuals with print disabilities badly need greater access to scientific and technical content.
Contact: Craig Pearson, [email protected]
Submission Deadline: October 1, 2013
Exceptions Journal, a new art and literary journal for students with visual disabilities, is accepting submissions for its inaugural issue. Exceptions Journal provides a platform for university students and recent alumni to publish creative work that showcases their unique perspectives. Published in print, in Braille, and online, Exceptions Journal aims to make the artistic work of students with visual disabilities available to a diverse audience, providing a forum for creative exchange. The publication will highlight a variety of art forms, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, music, film, and visual and tactile arts.
Released June 25, 2013, Blind Ambition is a fifteen-minute documentary film in which several blind Harvard students talk about their lives. The film conveys a positive attitude about blindness by showing bright, capable young people as they study and play. Among the students featured in the film is Kristin Fleschner, winner of a 2013 NFB National Scholarship.
New Website on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
Information Line: (800) 514-0301 (Voice)
(800) 514-0383 (TTY)
The US Department of Justice has launched a redesigned ADA website for the first time since 2002. The new design incorporates improved navigation and usability features, making it easier for visitors to find information on ADA technical assistance, enforcement, and regulations.
Typeability is a program that teaches the entire computer keyboard in ninety-nine user-friendly lessons. By the end of the lessons, the student will have mastered all of the letters, numbers, and punctuation marks, as well as navigation and editing in dialogs and text documents. Typeability is fun for learners of all ages. Typeability 4.1 for JAWS is compatible with JAWS Version 8 and higher. It is also compatible with the screen magnification program MAGIC, allowing students with low vision to see and listen to their lessons. A full range of video tutorials is available for both blind and sighted teachers.
The Princeton Braillists
76 Leabrook Lane
Princeton, NJ 08540
Contacts: Ruth Bogia, (215) 357-7715, [email protected]
Nancy Amick, (609) 924-5207, [email protected]
The Princeton Braillists are a small group of senior citizen volunteers whose goal is to make high quality but inexpensive tactile maps and drawings for blind people of all ages. Using the Thermoform process, maps are made on thin plastic sheets with various textures to indicate cities, boundaries, rivers, mountains, and other features. Fourteen atlases of individual US states and seventeen atlases of countries and regions of the world are now available, as well as a book of basic human anatomy drawings. The most recent addition to the collection is an atlas of the state of Kansas.
The MOLinsight web portal is a gateway to open-source software that can be integrated into strategies for blind users to process chemical structures. The website provides documentation for available programs and a guide to help users select tools for specific tasks. The site offers guidelines to interpret or build a molecular structure, methods to verify if two chemical structures in different file formats are the same, strategies for gathering general information such as weight and mass for a specific molecule, and ways to interpret a molecule's stereotypical features. The newest free, downloadable program is NavMol, a prototype of a molecular editor for blind users. NavMol is a simple stand-alone application that provides an MS-DOS or Linux shell command-line interface. Users can interact with the program using text-to-speech software or an attached Braille device. NavMol allows the user to navigate the structure atom by atom, providing information about bond types and the neighbors of each atom. It also allows structures to be changed by adding and deleting atoms and bonds.
VIRTmac Learning Kits
595 Proudfoot Lane, Apt. 314
London, ON, N6H 4S1, Canada
Contact: John MacLellan, (519) 472-0549
VIRT-Mac (Visual Interactive Revolutionary Tactile Magnetic Classroom) offers comprehensive teaching tools for instruction in biology for students in grades eight through twelve. Magnetic models demonstrate how molecules are used over and over again in biological processes. The models combine visual, auditory, and tactile elements, and can be labeled with Braille. Three kits are currently available: the Membrane/Protein Kit, DNA/RNA Protein Kit, and Protein Folding/Enzyme Structure Function Kit. (Go to “Where to Buy” for US outlets.)
The mission of KeySense Games is to help children with visual impairments learn faster and improve their social interaction abilities, all while having fun. The company was launched by a team of five students at the University of Washington. Sea Divers, the first tactile, interactive game from KeySense, has recently been released. Players collect tokens as they move around the board, learning about different sea creatures and watching out for creatures that may take their tokens. The game is designed for players ages four and up.
PO Box 508
Charles Town, WV 25414
(855) 225-3426, Ext. 377
AbleGamers Foundation is a public nonprofit that aims to improve the quality of life for people with disabilities through the power of video games. AbleGamers advocates on behalf of the disability community to increase the accessibility of video games and to achieve further inclusion by those who need special considerations. It maintains an accessibility database with reviews of more than two hundred mainstream games for accessibility to people with a variety of disabilities. It also consults free of charge with game developers to help them make their products accessible. Its practical guide, Includification, is a 48-page, fully illustrated roadmap for developers. AbleGamers also offers grants to encourage the development and distribution of accessible games.
Described TV Survey
Since July 1, 2012, the leading U.S. broadcast and cable television channels have been required by law to provide at least fifty hours of prime-time and children's programming with audio description in each calendar quarter, or approximately four hours per week per channel. Sponsored by the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB), this survey will help determine how well the networks are complying with the law, how successfully consumers are identifying and accessing described programs, and which television shows consumers are enjoying with description or would like to have described. It should take about five minutes to complete the survey.
Visitors to this Facebook page post ideas, links, resources, and information about gently used books, toys, assistive technology, and other equipment for children with disabilities. Items on the site are available to be passed along to children who can use them.
NEW BOOKS FROM NATIONAL BRAILLE PRESS
National Braille Press
88 St. Stephen St.
Boston, MA 02115
iOS Success: Making the iPad Accessible, A Guide for Teachers and Parents
by Larry L. Lewis
Large print, Braille, eBraille, DAISY, ASCII, audio/MP3, or Word
School districts across the countffy are purchasing and deploying iPads to students and integrating them into the classroom curriculum. But how many teachers and parents are ready to ensure that blind students have equal access to all that the iPad has to offer? iOS Success, written by a blind iPad instructor, gives step-by-step instructions for every pertinent accessibility feature the iPad has to offer. Chapters cover VoiceOver and Zoom, pairing external devices such as keyboards and Braille displays, setting up Apple accounts to buy apps, using the Cloud and Dropbox, and much, much more.
iPad Tactile Screen Shot Quick References iOS 6
by Tom Dekker and Tactile Vision, Inc.
In Braille and large print with tactile diagrams
These tactile screen shots of various iPad screens show readers what appears where on the iPad--from the buttons and camera lenses to the home screen apps, the App Store, messages, settings, keypad, contacts, iBooks, and iTunes. Readers will get a clearer sense of how to find icons and elements on the screen, as well as how to manipulate and interact with them. Explore diagrams with one hand while swiping through screen elements with the other, or practice the motions and gestures on the diagrams, then try them on the iPad. These tactile screen shots are meant to be used in conjunction with other teaching texts and are not meant to replace them.
AT Solutions in Minutes, Book II: Ordinary Items, Extraordinary Solutions
by Therese Willkomm, PhD
University of New Hampshire Institute on Disability
10 W. Edge Dr., Suite 101
Durham, NH 03824
This book is a collection of ingenious, do-it-yourself adaptations to make products more accessible to students with disabilities. All of the solutions are low-cost; can be made with simple, everyday tools (e.g., utility knife, pliers, scissors); and require no electricity or power tools. Many of Willkomm's creations make assistive products easier to access, hold, or manipulate. The text contains over 700 photographs with step-by-step instructions and a DVD featuring 115 video clips, printable PDF files, and an accessible copy of the book with picture descriptions for people with visual impairments.
Lessons from CLOD: an Inspiring Story of Art, Philanthropy and Entrepreneurship
by Hal O. Hanson
Available from <www.amazon.com>
Jeff Hanson is a nineteen-year-old legally blind artist and philanthropist from Overland Park, Kansas. After losing most of his sight at age twelve due to a brain tumor, Hanson resolved to raise money for charity by selling his paintings. With the help of his family and friends, he met his goal, raising a million dollars for AIDS research, the Make-a-Wish Foundation, and other causes. Written by his father, this book tells Jeff Hanson's story.