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Posts Tagged ‘Accessibility’


This month at Homeschool Mosaics, I share one of my pet peeves . . . people who try to pass off their pets as service dogs. Why is this a no-no? Read her post and find out. If you are doing this, shame on you!

http://homeschoolmosaics.com/pets-as-service-animals/

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The Classical Historian Go Fish card game deck showing Ancient History categoryThere is a simple, but interesting way to commit to memory those often tedious bits of information in history like people, places, general chronology. The homeschooling parents of The Classical Historian have taken old card game formats and applied them as new tricks for a tired, old dog called flash cards.

These cards are really more than flash cards, but the analogy still holds. Each card contains the information covered in a chapter  or more of a history book in a simple format for seeing and understanding while giving the freedom to do several game formats to spice up learning with fun and make remembering the facts easier.

The four card games that The Classical Historian brings to you with their set is Go Fish, Collect the Cards, Chronology, and Continents. With the simplest, Collect the Cards, the student will get familiar with pronouncing the name, repeat visually seeing the spelling, picture, and simple facts including category, and a time frame code. Simply asking for the names of cards to complete their set of four of a kind, the student is practicing memory skills. The other three games reinforces memory of facts, time, and place about each card in the deck. Two of the games which are played against a clock can even be played alone, if required, by trying to improve their own personal best at placing cards in the proper time order or under the correct continent the cards were found. Whether alone or in a group, the games are as fun as the original games, but teach even more now.

Game card of Cincinnatus overlaid with clear plastic brailled with card information.

You may be wondering how I played such a game designed for typical people meaning hearing and sighted. Well, my husband told me in fingerspelling what was on each card and even where (I used to see, so I understand visual placement). Using that information, I brailled a piece of clear plastic for each card. I did this in using a regular braille slate and stylus. For example, I also used a larger sheet of plastic to braille a separate “card” using jumbo braille as some older or younger students might need. The sheets are bigger in jumbo braille, of course, but for a blind child or adult playing with children, it is still quite usable. Yes, it can take some time to braille all these cards in either size, but the joy of playing a game and especially a learning game is worth the effort. I have lots of games that I still play with my husband that we have tactiled in various ways. Sometimes, we may even have to modify play slightly, but it doesn’t prevent us from enjoying the game or our quality time together. Be open and creative. It is worth the effort.Clear plastic brailled with card info to be used in the Go Fish games.

The Classical Historian sells the card games in three categories: Ancient History, Medieval History, and American History. You will also find on their website, classicalhistorian.com, A Memory game format covering these categories and other curriculum resources. The Go Fish card games are $11.95 each. You will find there is replay value (fun to play again and again) in the games, and the game cards are very durable which makes them worth the price.

I have received a copy of the above product to help facilitate a frank and honest review. A positive review is not guaranteed. All opinions are my own. Your results and opinions may vary.

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My Homeschool Grades Logo Image using blocks with the initials and the company name beside each matching letter block.If you are like me, you must have a grade program. I don’t like figuring out the grades, and I need something to keep everything organized digitally because there is too much paper and too many things for a grade not on paper. There are a few homeschool programs out there which are fine, but none that are accessible. Some, though, are just public school oriented re-packaged for homeschoolers which makes them too complex for most homeschoolers to bother. We don’t need discipline logs, parent-teacher conference notes, lunchroom fee modules, and the like. We need something flexible in regards to assignment types, grading styles, and keeps transcripts. Some of us need attendance sections, too, along with simple lesson plan listings. Anyway, flexibility allowing uniqueness is hard to come by in grade programs because most think too much like regular schools. My Home School Grades does an excellent job, is constantly listening to their consumers adding and adjusting, and is accessible, too!

My Home School Grades’, an online program, main appeal is its simplicity. It has an uncluttered view even with numerous students or classes listed on the screen. Though simple and easy to use, the program has the features you need in the homeschooling world. You can have as many students as you need, and each can have as many classes as you like to provide. You can add activities that can include experiments, films, theater, field trips of every destination. That simplicity allows you to have your unique feel to your student’s academics and experiences. You can choose the curriculum descriptions of numerous popular publishers or list yours as custom. You can’t list your description, but if you’d like to suggest that the vendor add that feature or any feature, click support at the top right of the screens and suggest away. They are adding people’s suggestions all the time, so they make it very easy to suggest something to them. In fact, the company is working on including attendance now because consumers suggested it. This company is really listening, so ask away!

Set up of your school information which is used for transcripts takes only a couple of minutes including setting up your name, address, and style of grade display which can be edited any time in the account area along with your password. Then you add your students and their classes in a matter of minutes even if you have several students. When you add a lesson, it is just as simple, and you can list ahead and add grades later or add them as the students complete them. There is nothing complicated here, and it is all easy to find and figure out on your own. But, if you have trouble or if you want to see how easy things are before you buy, check out their tutorials on the steps that are found on the front page of their web site.

You can also designate your classes as Advanced Placement (AP) or Honors which will automatically be given a higher GPA point value by default. You can list your grades by lesson plan for individual assignments and grades or by a single, final grade for the course. If your student is doing Dual Enrollment, you can designate that and list the college where the course is taken. You can adjust credit when applicable for .25, .5, .75, or even 1, 2, 3, or 4 credits depending on the type and schedule of course. You also have an option for non-credit if you just want to list the experience, but no credit is given. You can list  the course as full year, Spring, Fall, Summer, or 1st, 2nd, or 3rd Quarter.

Using your student and course data, transcripts are clear and professional showing school name, address, grading scale, course and credit list, total credits, and GPA. The transcript’s second page lists the activities the student has participated in during their academic career. You can export your transcript to a saved file or print for your records. The grading scale calculates the GPA by using 5 points for Honors courses down to 0 for 59 and below and 4 also given for classes you deem as Pass/Fail. I love the fact that Social Security numbers and graduation dates are not stored on the My Home School Grades server, but is entered each time you export transcript. You click the settings buttons on the Export Transcript screen and enter the Social Security Number and Graduation date and then hit print. You can print without that information if you desire. Settings options also allow you to hide certain grade levels and activities, if desired.

With these features, you will certainly find My Home School Grades simple, but flexible and professional for use. In addition, the online program is fully accessible for low vision and screen readers and braille display. At this time of writing, it is the only homeschool grade tracking program that is accessible to my knowledge, and that knowledge is extensive though not complete. There are a few screen reader focus issues with My Home School Grades that hinder navigation slightly like when a pop up screen is present for adding/editing a student or lesson or course, the braille display advance command or the keyboard tab still advances on the back page for several places before finding the pop up page. This is an easy fix, but it needs to be addressed because a blind person will have no way of knowing that the button they clicked actually worked by popping up a screen. Again, it is easy to fix, and I am certain based on the knowledge of the vendors’ customer service reputation which is excellent that this will be handled in the near future. Despite this little hang up, the program is definitely usable by a low vision or blind user, and that makes this reviewer extremely happy.

To make it even better, My Home School Grades works well on most tablets and smartphones connected to the internet. On the iPhone, My Home School Grade’s web app through Safari is also completely accessible to Voice Over and a braille display compatible with Voice Over. You can keep up with activities and lessons while on the go which makes handling your homeschool even easier.

Now, it is your turn. You can check out My Home School Grades on their web site at https://myhomeschoolgrades.com. You can try it out for a 14 day free trial, see how the online program works with their tutorials on their home page, and get the facts on their “Learn More” page. The price is one of the best things about this program because you get a lifetime membership for just $49.99. With that, you are set for all of your students throughout their homeschool years.

I have received a copy of the above product to help facilitate a frank and honest review. A positive review is not guaranteed. All opinions are my own. Your results and opinions may vary.

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Today, I write about ASL interpreters, the heroes to me and many other Deaf and DeafBlind individuals. They train to provide the best interpretation of information in the form of words to the beautiful images found only on the hands and in the minds of those who understand the language of the hands. There are many kinds of heroes in this world. I share how ASL interpreters are true heroes to me. I hope you will read today’s post on Homeschool Mosaics and understand just how special these hard-working people are and how they contribute so much to many. http://homeschoolmosaics.com/interpreters-a-special-kind-of-hero/

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It is time for the second installment about my trip to the aquarium. I hope you have fun reading about it, and it can bring encouragement that life after loss or with challenges can be full of love, learning, and fun.

http://homeschoolmosaics.com/my-visit-to-the-georgia-aquarium-part-2/

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You ever have something so exciting to say that it was too long to say all at once. Well, my trip to the Georgia Aquarium with husband and friends was just that. It was so exciting that it just didn’t all fit into one column on Homeschool Mosaics. I had lots of touches. Some were soft. Some were smooth. Some were squishy. Some were icky, but they were all fun. Join me over at Homeschool Mosaics to read all about the fun, but you have to come back next month to get the full story. It was just too much fun for one telling! Let’s go read all about the trip to the Georgia Aquarium.

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There are a lot of awesome things on Homeschool Mosaics this month about the holidays in regards to giving, remembering the importance of family, and including the Special Needs members. My column is all about how to include them in the upcoming festivities including the DeafBlind, so please check it out and think about those you may need to think about and how you need to do that to have the best holiday season for everyone!

http://homeschoolmosaics.com/include-your-special-needs-family-friends-in-your-holiday-gatherings/

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Thinkwell is an online math education site. I have heard so much about it that I thought I would try it out. I wanted to see if it was accessible for the deaf, blind, and deafblind. I also wanted to see if the program would be suitable for an accredited umbrella program that required the parent-teacher to submit documentation such as copies of tests and grades for credit. I had heard from many that it covered several age levels from middle school through high school and Advanced Placement and college level, too. While educationally, it might not be a suitable option for everyone, the program is high quality and proves beneficial to many.

While, I may not be discussing the academic portions of this program, I will quickly describe it to you. There are numerous chapters in each course covering a full curriculum of objectives for each course. Each chapter has a video lecture followed by practice assignments, a quiz, and a chapter test. There are also interactive activities for added interest, practice, and enrichment. Along with that, you will also find printable worksheet type exercises for off-line practice, too.  A fellow contributing writer and co-founder of Homeschool Mosaics reviewed this site a few months ago following actually using the programs for two years with her own son. You can get her educated opinion by reading her review on Homeschool Mosaics here:  http://homeschoolmosaics.com/thinkwell-for-math/ .

Now, let me tell you what I found out in regards to accessibility and umbrella programs. Although, the site isn’t totally accessible to a braille display, I was impressed by how much the site developers did try to consider handicapped students. Their lecture videos which are the key to the program are closed captioned. You can turn them on from the buttons at the bottom of the video window. In addition, I was shocked to see that they had a complete print transcript of the video’s audio with detailed descriptions of the examples written on a chalkboard in the video. This would make it very easy for a hearing blind student to follow the video during play. It also would make it possible for a blind student to use a screen reader to read the transcript for the video to further understand the teacher’s lecture. A deaf student could also use the transcript to augment the closed captioning, if needed, since the problem examples are described well. In addition, the transcript file is a text .pdf making it accessible to a braille display, too, so a deafblind student could use this transcript to access the all-important teacher lecture. I highly commend the site developers for taking this much needed, but rare extra step to add accessibility to the site. Normally, the deafblind student would not have the ability to use a site at all even if a transcript is provided, since most provide image-based rather than text-based .pdf files. The practice worksheets, quizzes, and tests that I have mentioned that follow each video lecture are also available in two formats:  the online, computer checked format and the .pdf format. There is no audio connected with the practice tests, quizzes or tests, so a deaf student can easily take the on-line test to receive their results. A hearing blind student can possible do the on-line format with the screen reader. I can’t verify that because I am DeafBlind, so I am unsure if the screen reader is voicing the on-line version. Regardless, the .pdf format of the worksheets, quizzes, and tests are also text-based instead of image-based, so a braille display will be able to read these. To facilitate this use, open the on-line version and let the student orally answer or open .pdf version , print,  and use a braille and slate to record the answers for these assignments. The teacher can then use the on-line format to record the student’s answers for computer grading and record-keeping.  This is definitely an easy way to do the program for the blind and deafblind. There are some animated flash interactive activities that are not accessible for blind and deafblind and possibly not to the deaf for the ones that have audio that is needed for completing the task. However, these are enrichment activities that are not critically needed to ensure successful completion of the courses. Although the blind and deafblind can’t do the entire site independently, the quality of the education is high, and there is sufficient access along with a simple step for modification to make this program a beneficial choice to those students who are already good with using a computer with a screen reader and/or braille display. So, if you need or want an on-line choice for your student’s math curriculum, Thinkwell is a beneficial option to try.

In addition to usable access for the disabled, Thinkwell pleases me as Principal of an accredited homeschool umbrella program, too. Regardless to whether the program is a divided home/center program or a home only program such as mine for the most part, Thinkwell has the capability to fit your documentation and contact hour requirements. The courses cover objectives for each subject and level well with suitable instruction and practice for a typical school year. All assignments can be printed as blank assignments to be used for on-site observation, as needed. Completed on-line activities can be printed with answers to show correct/incorrect questions specifically, as well as, the overall grade on the assignment. In addition, there is a suitable number of activities to allow for the programs that meet one, two, or three days a week and allow for practice at home through practice worksheets and interactive activities, as needed. Since there are also courses that are Advanced Placement level, students in these programs have access to AP materials that can be difficult for some students to obtain easily or affordably. Some colleges also use Thinkwell to provide actual college courses for them, so that adds to the evidence that Thinkwell provides quality instruction with a high quality content level, too.

A twelve month subscription to Thinkwell is $125-$150 for full year, full credit course, but there are many places that provide discount codes if you look for them. Either way, it isn’t too bad for a high quality program that is accessible and suitable for many accredited umbrella programs, too. You can find out more at http://www.thinkwellhomeschool.com/.

 

I was not asked by Thinkwell or anyone else to review this program. I chose it to review to provide options for disabled students and students involved in umbrella programs. I did use their advertised free trial to gain access to the program as any consumer can do. I have not and will not be compensated in any way for this review. The review expresses my honest opinion of this program.

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Have you ever been told or said that you can’t do something because of limitations or even disabilities? Well, let me share with you what I have learned through my own limitations and disabilities. Check out my post for this month on Homeschool Mosaics and then stick around and check out all the other great and wonderful writers found all in this one terrific place!

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The iPhone: Without Sight and Hearing

The Back Story: How this manual came to reality

 

This book came about because I fell in love with Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices. Yes, I can use both even though I am totally deaf and blind. You can, too. There is nothing special about me. I didn’t even own a braille display or even a screen reader before I got the iPhone 4 which was the first mobile device to totally integrate a screen reader and braille display support into their overall operating system, the iOS. At the AT&T store, the sales clerk really didn’t know what I was talking about when I asked him to set up my braille display. He turned on the bluetooth quickly after finding the Bluetooth on button in the general settings and then went to accessibility to turn on Voice Over and braille. The iPhone quickly and automatically discovered my RFB 18, and the clerk typed in the pairing numbers that my braille display manufacturer had given in the display’s manual. I couldn’t do this myself, but it was quick and easy for the clerk or any sighted person.

Then everything changed for me. I cried as I set up my email by myself and got my first email that I didn’t have to have someone read to me, and as I sent my first text message, and as I used the Notes app for simple face to face communication with the sales clerk, he typed to me, “Welcome back to the real world,” and I responded, “It is great to be back.”

Although Apple supports many braille displays and is always adding new ones, I will say that my first display was the American Publishing House for the Blind’s (APH) Refreshabraille 18. This is a perfect display for the iPhone. The little joystick made my ease into the screen reader/braille display world seamless as I had no clue what a braille chord command was or what those little buttons were for at first. The joystick was familiar to me, so I just started moving it and quickly discovered how to move from app to app. First, finding the email app and knowing my email address and ISP information by heart, I set it up and downloaded my email. Then I moved on to text messaging and sent my husband a text even though he was standing right next to me. Then I found a notes app and surmised that it must be a little word processing app similar to notepad on the computer. With that few minutes, I had joined the world again and would never look back.

After getting excited and telling everyone how I was using the iPhone and a braille display, I was asked by a couple of organizations and individuals to help others learn. I did my best to help in person or via email. Eventually, I was asked to write things down, so this little manual came to be a thought. I now hope that the desire to open the world to others without sight and hearing with the use of this integrated technology at a more affordable price will come to fruition through this manual.

 

The Reality: How will this manual help me?

You will find that it should be helpful regardless to which of the Apple supported braille displays you use or how much remaining sight or hearing you have. I am writing it from a totally deaf and blind point of view, hoping that if it can help someone totally without sight and sound that it can help anyone with vision or hearing loss. I am also adding a perspective that might surprise some people including the DeafBlind. Along with accessing the iPhone with just a braille display, I will also add techniques for using the touchscreen for better and faster navigation. The key to this is teaching a person to know their iPhone (and even iPad since they are so similar) like you do your own house. You know those mental maps you make to get around. Yes, even people who haven’t ever had sight before use mental maps of their own design to sort of “see” what is around them. I am using that concept sprinkled throughout to help a person really know and use their iPhone. With this way of “seeing” your iPhone, you will be prepared to easily use the touch screen in a lot of ways to get to what you need even faster than using chord commands at times. I don’t mean totally using a touch screen. Without true vision that would be silly, of course, but if you have an arsenal of navigation techniques, you can learn to move around efficiently and faster.

As far as braille displays go, they vary in features and even some commands. A list of the known braille commands for all supported displays is available in the appendix. The manual is assuming that you can use a braille display for your usual computer needs. I will mention specific chord commands if they are the same across all the devices, but otherwise, I will refer to them by a general chord command name such as advance or select or enter, etc. The directions will be given for navigation in more than one way when possible including a braille display’s linear or forward/back direction, touch screen placement described verbally, chord commands or braille display description, and touch screen gestures, when applicable.

So, let’s start this journey toward making the world accessible to you. It should be a great ride, and one you will never regret. Open yourself to the possibilities. All you need is an iPhone right out of the box and your braille display to gain the world through the iPhone without sight or hearing.

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