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AccessWorld's Annual Back-to-School Issue
by Lee Huffman on 7/16/2012 10:14:47 AM
Category: Assistive Technology
Hello, FamilyConnect community.
As the Editor-in-Chief of AFB's technology magazine, AccessWorld, I invite you to check out our July 2012 issue which focuses on providing information as students head back to school. It's almost here again. I know the students out there don't want to hear these words, but it's time to get back to school.
New classes, new instructors, class projects, oral presentations, tests, meeting new people, and even the possibility of changing schools or moving away to college bring about uncertainty and new challenges. Uncertainty is not necessarily a bad thing. This time of year can be exciting, too, especially if you plan ahead and prepare in advance.
Pursuing a good education can be difficult under the best of circumstances, and doing so as a person with vision loss can increase the challenge. Just as we have done for the past two years in the July issue, the AccessWorld team will once again focus on providing valuable information and resources for students, parents, teachers, and professionals in the vision loss field to help make educational pursuits less stressful and more enjoyable.
I have said it before, and I will say it again:
For the students in our readership: You must take personal responsibility for your education. Ultimately, you must be your own advocate. Prepare in advance, speak to instructors, and tell those you'll be working with exactly what types of accommodations will best meet your needs. Your education will have a tremendous impact on every aspect of the rest of your life, so it's crucial that you do everything you can to get the most out of your studies.
Good planning prevents poor performance. It's never too early to begin planning for the next school term, whether you're in elementary school or graduate school. Acquiring and learning to use the mainstream and access technology that best suits your situation, registering as early as possible for classes, obtaining reading lists, and searching out alternative formats should be done as soon as you can. Waiting until the last minute is a recipe for disaster.
The AccessWorld team is excited to bring the FamilyConnect community the information in our July issue, and we sincerely hope you or a student you know will find it useful. In this issue Darren Burton and Ricky Kirkendall of FloCo Apps, LLC bring you an article detailing AccessNote: AFB's New Note Taker for Your iOS Device, Larry Lewis continues his series Success with iOS with his article iOS and E-books, An Alternative Means of Reading, and Tara Annis highlights another STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) initiative in her article, What You See Is What You Feel: Getting in Touch with Haptic Technology from eTouchSciences.
If you are looking for information about cell phone accessibility as you start the new school term, you will want to read Tara Annis's second article in this issue, An Evaluation of Two Cell Phone Accessibility Websites: Access Wireless and FCC Clearinghouse. Additionally, the staff at Baruch College highlights its method of linking technology and service to people with vision loss, and on the employment front, Dr. Jaclyn Packer and Morgan Blubaugh discuss research into the use of all-in-one multifunctional document centers by people who are blind or who have low vision.
If you happen to be looking for an accessible HD radio for your dorm room or new apartment or want access to digital television programming, Deborah Kendrick just may have viable solutions for you in her articles. To round out the issue, Janet Ingber looks at substitutes for the popular Siri feature on the iPhone 4S.
I encourage you to read every article, along with the articles from the July 2010 and July 2011 issues of AccessWorld, as the ideas and resources we've covered will certainly help improve, enrich, and broaden your educational experience. Please use these articles and resources to your best advantage. We on the AccessWorld team wish you good luck and good planning as you head back to school!
Ask the AccessWorld Experts, November 14-18
by Lee Huffman on 11/1/2011 1:49:51 PM
Category: Assistive Technology
As editor-in-chief of AccessWorld®, a free online magazine focusing on technology for people who are blind or visually impaired, I am pleased to spend some time with you on this blog to discuss the technology needs of your children who are blind or visually impaired.
From Monday, November 14 until Friday, November 18, we'll be answering the comments and questions that you post here. Simply scroll down to the bottom of this thread and click on the "Log in to post a comment" link to sign in and post your question. (You do need to be a member of FamilyConnect to post a comment. If you aren't, please take a moment to register. It is free, and will also give you access to a number of helpful features on the site.)
Feel free to ask any questions you have about mainstream or assistive technology—maybe you're curious about what cell phone to buy, or which ebook platform is the most accessible. Or you might be wondering what toys or gadgets your kids would enjoy for the holidays.
Simply leave your questions or concerns in the comments below, anytime from November 14-18 (Monday-Friday) and our team will be on hand to respond to your inquiries.
I'll be joined by a team of AccessWorld writers, including:
- Tara Annis
- Brad Hodges
- Janet Ingber
- Deborah Kendrick
- J.J. Meddaugh
- Ike Presley
- John Rempel
We hope you'll come back November 14-18 for this exciting online event!
In the meantime, I encourage you to take a look at AccessWorld's past issues focusing on "Back to School" topics—July 2011 and July 2010. The articles in these issues offer information about preparing students with vision loss for academic challenges from grade school to grad school.
Ed. note: Thank you for joining us for this special online event. Comments are now closed, but we hope you'll continue the conversation on FamilyConnect's Technology Forum. And sign up for AccessWorld Alerts to get an e-mail message every time a new free issue of AccessWorld is posted online.
Happy 20th Anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act!
by Paul Schroeder on 7/26/2010 10:17:43 AM
Category: Assistive Technology
Today, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is officially 20 years old! I remember attending the ceremony at the White House where President George H.W. Bush signed the law on July 26, 1990 and I'm looking forward to celebrating with President Obama and the disability community today.
Of course, American children with vision loss have grown up in a society that, while not perfect, hopefully more effectively includes people with disabilities. ADA says no to discrimination against people with disabilities in employment, transportation, government services and access to goods and services. Hopefully, ADA says yes to enabling those of us with disabilities to pursue and develop our interests.
There is still a lot of work going on to extend ADA's prohibition against discrimination into other areas of life. For example, today, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it is officially proposing to require that commercial web sites be made accessible for people with disabilities. In addition, DOJ also announced that it is exploring requiring movie theaters to include video description and captioning for movies.
Meanwhile, Congress is celebrating ADA in yet another way. Today, the United States House of Representatives is voting on a new law, H.R. 3101, the 21st Century Communications And Video Accessibility Act of 2010. This legislation, which still must pass the Senate and be signed by the President before it becomes law, would improve access to communications technologies that connect to the Internet and make television watching much more fun and informative for those of us with vision loss. Specifically, H.R. 3101 will:
- Restore and expand requirements for video description of television programs, in addition to requiring cable companies to make their program guides and selection menus accessible to people with vision loss.
- Mandate mobile phone companies to make web browsers, text messaging, and e-mail on smart phones fully accessible.
- Ensure people with vision loss have access to emergency broadcast information.
- Provide $10 million in funding each year for assistive technology for deaf-blind individuals.
At the time it was written, no one could have predicted the new technologies that would shape our daily lives and work routines. The ADA is best known for improving physical access to buildings, but now it is being used to improve our lives in many other ways, including in access to technology.
This is shaping up to be quite a 20th birthday. And, you can play a part in the celebrations and plans for the future.
You can watch the White House ADA celebration, which begins at 5:30 Eastern time, via the web at
Please log in and share in the celebration.
To learn more about the proposals from the Department of Justice, and to register your own comment in support of access to the web and to video description, use these links:
Comments are welcome from the public and are due by January 24, 2011.
You can learn more about H.R. 3101 on the web site of the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COAT), www.coataccess.org. And sign up for alerts from FamilyConnect, so that you will learn about opportunities to help advocate for the bill. Your support will be especially needed to get it approved by the United States Senate!
Back to School Prep
by Lee Huffman on 7/8/2010 4:30:31 PM
Category: Assistive Technology
As the long days of summer pass by, there are three words that strike fear, or at least some apprehension, in the hearts of students of all ages: "back to school." New classes, new instructors, class projects, oral presentations, tests, meeting new people, and even the possibility of changing schools or moving away to college bring about uncertainty, new challenges, and situations never before encountered. This is especially true if you are a student with vision loss.
In the July issue, the AccessWorld team has geared its work toward providing valuable information and resources for students, parents, teachers, and professionals in the field to help make educational pursuits a less stressful and more enjoyable experience for those who are blind or visually impaired.
There are two points I want to make clear to all who read the articles in this issue:
You as a student need to take personal responsibility for your education. Ultimately, you are responsible for advocating for yourself. It is your responsibility to prepare in advance, speak to instructors, and tell those you'll be working with exactly what types of accommodations will best meet your needs. It is your education, and it will greatly impact every aspect of the rest of your life, so you need to act responsibly and be proactive in your approach to pursuing your education.
- Good planning prevents poor performance. It is never too early to begin planning for the next school term, whether it is elementary school or graduate school. Acquiring and learning to use the assistive technology that best suits your situation, registering as early as possible for classes, obtaining reading lists for classes, and searching out alternative formats should be done as soon as possible. Waiting until the last minute is certain to be a recipe for disaster.
Pursuing a quality education can be difficult under the best of circumstances. Pursuing that education as a person with vision loss can be even more challenging. That is why having and maintaining a positive attitude is crucial to educational success.
The AccessWorld team is very excited to bring you this information, and the team and I sincerely hope you or a student you know will find it useful. I encourage you to read every article as the ideas and resources discussed in this "back to school" issue will certainly help to improve, enrich, and broaden your educational experience. A full spectrum of topics, ranging from knowing your legal rights to obtaining funding to purchase assistive technology, is covered. Please use these articles and resources to your best advantage. We on the AccessWorld team welcome your comments and questions, and we wish you luck and good planning as you head back to school!
Remember, this is the first issue in our new monthly publication schedule. Please look for us again in August!
Hands-On Learning Thanks to New Technology
by Susan LaVenture on 2/10/2010 12:38:21 PM
Category: Assistive Technology
I recently came across this interesting article about a high school in Alberta, Canada. They report that they are very pleased with their investment in "lab equipment designed to allow students with low vision, or no vision, to become active participants in chemistry, physics and biology labs."
It is great to see creative technological solutions to access problems in education. You can really sense the pride from the student who said, "Now, we could do it all ourselves."
Have any of you seen this technology in action? How up-to-date are the facilities in your child's school? Have you successfully lobbied for any improvements?
Assistive Technology: How Do You Decide What Tools Your Child Needs?
by Ike Presley on 3/31/2009 2:20:45 PM
Category: Assistive Technology
Hi, my name is Ike Presley. Yes, I am kin to Elvis, but not close enough to count...ninth or tenth cousins. Wait till you hear me sing! No, maybe you don't want to do that. Anyway, I would like to have a discussion with you about the use of technology by youths and adults who are blind or visually impaired. This topic is referred to as assistive technology (AT) and is one of the subjects in the Expanded Core Curriculum (ECC) that is essential to the education of students who are blind or visually impaired.
I am currently a National Project Manager for the American Foundation for the Blind in our Atlanta office and have just completed a book for AFB Press titled, Assistive Technology for Students who are Blind or Visually Impaired: A Guide to Assessment, with my co-author Frances Mary D'Andrea.
I was born into a family with a history of congenital cataracts. Somehow Elvis missed this part. Anyway, it's all over my family: brother, cousin, uncle, niece, grandfather, and several of his brothers and sisters. I received very few services during school, but I'll go into that in another post.
After completing my Masters at Florida State University I moved to Atlanta, GA, and began my career as a teacher of the visually impaired. I taught as an itinerant teacher for four years in one school district and then two more years in a neighboring district.
Then I finally got my dream job, a high school resource room for students who are blind or visually impaired. I taught at this school for 7 years where all my students took vision as one of their classes. I loved getting to have the students for several years and getting to work with classroom teachers who were learning how to meet the needs of our students.
I left education in the late '80s and became a technology instructor at a rehabilitation center for adults who are blind of visually impaired. I did this for about 4 years and then went back to education as an assistive technology specialist for the Georgia State Department of Education. On this job I traveled around the state of Georgia and conducted assistive technology assessments of students who are blind or visually impaired. I also had the pleasure of training many of the teachers on various technologies and how they could teach them to their students.
In 1999, I started working for the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). Since then I have learned many more things about technology and have had many opportunities to present on AT at various conferences in the US, Canada, and the UK.
Please don't get me wrong. I'm not telling you all this in an attempt to sound important, but to let you know that I have been very fortunate in my life to have many opportunities to not only use a good deal of technology, but also many opportunities to learn about how others are using AT for educational and employment purposes. That's why I think the good folks at FamilyConnect asked me to be a guest blogger.
There are so many great technologies currently available that it is very difficult to know which one is the right technology tool for your child. I am often asked, "What technology should my child be learning?" I usually ask if their child has had an assistive technology assessment. An AT assessment is designed to provide you and your child's IEP team with recommendations for technology tools that can assist the child in completing educational tasks. The AT assessment is where you want to start in trying to answer that question.
I will be happy to answer questions in this area during the next few weeks. I'm hoping that this will become an ongoing discussion. In my upcoming posts I'll talk about the process of conducting an AT assessment. This will not only cover information about the assessment process, but an introduction to the various types of technology used by people who are blind or visually impaired, and some suggestions on how to teach your child about using technology.
In the meantime, you might want to suggest to your child's teacher that they acquire the AT Assessment book mentioned above. (I know it's a shameless plug, but I promise I won't do it all the time, so come back every week or so to see what we're talking about next.)