edited by Sharon Strzalkowski
The announcement of products and services in this column does not represent an endorsement by the American Council of the Blind, its officers, or staff. Listings are free of charge for the benefit of our readers. "The Braille Forum" cannot be held responsible for the reliability of the products and services mentioned. To submit items for this column, send a message to [email protected], or phone the national office at 1-800-424-8666, and leave a message in Sharon Lovering's mailbox. Information must be received at least two months ahead of publication date.
NLS Magazines Now on Cartridge
The National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped (NLS) recently announced that its audio magazines are now available on cartridge. This transition completes the digital conversion that began in 2009. Cartridges have better sound quality and more in-depth navigation than did cassettes, and they hold more data. NLS has created a read-and-return system for magazines; once a subscriber finishes reading the magazine(s) on the cartridge, he returns it to NLS. This will keep costs down and allow NLS to continue and possibly expand its magazine program.
Online Educational Opportunities
CANnect, www.cannect.org, is a consortium of agencies and schools whose mission is to create leading edge, user-friendly and accessible online educational opportunities, learning resources and life skills training for people who are blind and/or visually impaired, for professionals who serve them, and for their families. The organization has designed a course catalog for users to be able to access the current courses (in English only at present), and invites you to add your courses to the catalog.
If you are blind or visually impaired, or a teacher who works with blind and visually impaired students, take a look at the courses to see if any of them suits your needs. Sample courses include two Excel courses offered by the Carroll Center for the Blind (Newton, Mass.), and Information Technology Without Walls by E.A.S.I. Send questions to [email protected].
New Requirements for Replacement Social Security Cards
Lost your Social Security card? Need a list of your Social Security numbers for your family? Beginning June 24, 2013, whether you need a replacement Social Security card or a Social Security number printout, you must show documents to prove your identity, age, and U.S. citizenship or lawful immigration status.
Before visiting a Social Security office, check out the new requirements on www.socialsecurity.gov. There, you will find a list of documents you must bring with you to the Social Security office. This will save you a good bit of time! The parts of the Social Security web site that offer the most relevant details include:
- Documents You Need For A Social Security Card (www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnumber/ss5doc.htm);
- Frequently Asked Questions (www.socialsecurity.gov/faqs); and
- Get A Publication (www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs).
You also may want to take a look at the specific online fact sheets and publications that address the requirements for getting a printout or card. Those include:
- U.S. Citizen/Adult — Social Security Card and Number Printout (SSA Publication No. 05-10512);
- U.S. Citizen/Child — Social Security Card and Number Printout (SSA Publication No. 05-10514); and
- Non-U.S. Citizen/Adult — Social Security Card and Number Printout (SSA Publication No. 05-10515).
All documents submitted must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. Social Security will not accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents.
If you have questions, visit www.socialsecurity.gov, or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778).
New Math and Science Software for Blind Students
eTouchSciences is a project funded by the United States Department of Education to develop math and science curriculum software for students with visual impairments. The software incorporates a technology called computer haptics, which allows students to feel virtual objects that could only be seen before. Check out this short video clip that explains the software and a little about how it works: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksEltVVPkjM&noredirect=1.
Want to know more? The American Foundation for the Blind reviewed the software; you can view it at www.afb.org/afbpress/pub.asp?DocID=aw130706. You may also visit www.etouchsciences.com for further information.
Telecommuting Scores High
Workers with disabilities say telecommuting is a key workplace benefit, with eight out of 10 (81.1%) saying they would like the option to telecommute at least part time, according to a national survey released recently by Think Beyond the Label, a private-public collaborative that helps businesses and the public workforce system connect to job seekers with disabilities.
Telecommuting was the second-ranked workplace benefit (39.3%) in the national survey, surpassing flexible spending programs, which help pay for costs such as healthcare and commuting (14.2%), onsite fitness centers and services (2.0%) and free or subsidized meals (0.8%) as the most wanted employee perk, just behind paid time off (42.5%), such as for maternity leave.
EEOC Issues Revised Publications
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently issued four revised documents on protection against disability discrimination. The documents address how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to applicants and employees with cancer, diabetes, epilepsy, and intellectual disabilities. To get a copy, visit EEOC's web site, www.eeoc.gov/laws/types/disability.cfm.
Pottery for the Blind
Bailey's Art Works is a pottery studio whose founder is blind. It has begun to supply statues of dogs to blind guide dog users from a small private studio in Indiana. The studio makes German shepherd and Labrador retriever statues, along with other items such as dog statues for pet owners, sailboats, lighthouses, candy dishes, pots/planters, platters, mugs with raised figures, woodland animals, and holiday ornaments. New items include a framed ceramic German shepherd, with raised sky and clouds, tactile grass, and more; a small statue of a German shepherd lying down; small mallard duck candy dish; black Labrador lying down; small white-tailed deer; a little hummingbird on her nest, with small white eggs; large 15" parrot, choice of orange/red or blue/green; gray castle; small pond with fish, grass, rocks and turtle by a log; small snowman with belt and top hat; large sailboat with a white sail that has a raised blue stripe plus brown boards for the boat bottom, plus water you can feel. Also available are a variety of Sculpey clay sculptures: whale; birds of various colors; pots for dry flowers (not waterproofed); small blue village house with tactile doors and windows; and a six- to eight-inch high village Christmas tree. Studio staff also craft birds made to Audubon specifications; colors are as exact as possible to simulate the real bird. For a list of items that are on inventory, contact Bailey's Art Works at (765) 216-6745 or e-mail [email protected].
PathPoint is a California-based non-profit organization that was established in 1964. It has been paving the way for people with disabilities to reach their fullest potential for nearly five decades. In addition to employment and housing, PathPoint's programs also include community living skills such as nutritional cooking, personal hygiene, safety, public transportation, banking, financial management, and recreational planning. PathPoint also partners with over 300 employers from both private and public sectors to place its participants in jobs for which they have the necessary skill set. The U.S. Department of Labor, Santa Barbara County, and Ventura County also collaborate with the organization in order to connect motivated and capable individuals with work that serves not only their personal path to independence, but also the need of the businesses and communities in which they work. For more information, visit www.pathpoint.org.
Community Builder Award
The ANCOR Foundation recently honored Kiwanis International's Aktion Clubs with the 2013 Community Builder Award. This award recognizes individuals and organizations that make inclusion and community integration a reality for people with disabilities. Aktion Clubs offer adults with disabilities opportunities to serve their communities while developing leadership skills. The clubs offer adults with disabilities the chance to plan and execute service projects in their communities. Club members learn by doing, developing leadership and decision-making skills, organization and teamwork. There are more than 11,000 Aktion Club members worldwide.
Planet Dog Awards Grants
The Planet Dog Foundation recently named the recipients of over $71,000 in new grants it has awarded to 16 canine service organizations. These grants will help fund service dog, therapy dog and canine search and rescue programs across the country. The recipients are: Can Do Canines of Minnesota; CAREing Paws of Georgia; Carolina Canines for Service; Compassionate Canines, Inc. of Wisconsin; Fire K9 of California; Gabriel's Angels of Arizona; Home for Life of Wisconsin; Intermountain Search Dogs of Washington; Leader Dogs for the Blind of Michigan; Lollypop Farm of New York; Massachusetts Vest-a-Dog; Ohio Federation of K9 Search Teams; Our VOICE of North Carolina; Paws Giving Independence of Illinois; Texas Hearing and Service Dogs; and Friends of Umpqua Valley Police K-9 Programs of Oregon. For more information, visit www.planetdogfoundation.org.
Washington State School for the Blind Superintendent Dr. Dean Stenehjem recently received an award of merit. He was nominated by his fellow superintendents. The award reads: "In recognition of effective leadership in public education and for significant contributions to educational administration. WASA, Leadership/Trust/Advocacy."
Solo-Dx for Described Movies
Solo-Dx is a new audio-description MP3 file that you can play along with your favorite movie or TV show at home. Each track is written and produced by industry professionals. It works with any standard media player. The only other thing you need is the movie itself on DVD, streaming on your computer or device, or video on demand on your TV. Just follow the directions at the start of the file, sit back, and enjoy your show! For more information, visit the web site, www.solo-dx.com. Or check out the Solo-Dx team's video at www.youtube.com/watch?v-eNIxZE_zo_Q.
Listen to Your News
There's a new app out there that will let you listen to your news without a TV set. It's called "erem – Listen to Your News," and it reads the news aloud to you. You can select your own news sources; erem will read any RSS feed you enter into it. It's currently available for Android; iPhone and iPad versions will soon be available too. To download the app, visit https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.one1software.erem.list....
Big Button Mobile Phone
The BM-01 is a big-button mobile phone available through Bierley. It offers several features specifically designed for seniors, including large keys, magnified text messages, emergency call button, hearing aid compliance, and radio with built-in loudspeaker. This phone can be used with any cellular service provider. For more information, call 1-800-985-0535 or visit www.bierley.com.
Mobile Smartphone for the Blind
Project RAY Ltd. and Odin Mobile recently announced their collaboration on America's first smartphone designed especially for the blind and visually impaired. Features of include: Odin Mobile's full telephone service, including voice, text and data, with customized setup and services; an affordable smartphone developed by Project RAY, with everything from its operating system to applications and content designed with blind and visually impaired people in mind; services that include voice calls, e-mail, contact list, calendar, GPS, advanced web remote assistance, a voice recorder, panic and emergency services, color identification, picture transcription, and money recognition; advanced communication and lifestyle services such as book and magazine subscriptions built into the device; and a unique operating system and user interface specially developed for sight-free operation, including single-gesture access to frequently used numbers and functions, one-hand operation, and more. For more information, visit www.odinmobile.com or www.project-ray.com.
Print/Braille Magnets and More
National Braille Press has two new print/braille magnets available. One reads, "Be the person your dog thinks you are" and shows a cartoon dog holding a bone in his mouth. The other reads, "Keep calm and carry on." For more information, call toll-free 1-800-548-7323, or visit www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/publications/index.html.
NBP also has a new book available, "iPad Tactile Screenshot Quick References iOS6" by Tom Dekker and Tactile Vision Inc. It's in braille and large print, with tactile diagrams, all in the same book. These tactile screen shots of various iPad screens show you what appears where on your iPad - from the buttons and camera lenses to the home screen apps, the App Store, messages, settings, keypad, contacts, iBooks and iTunes. Contact NBP at the number above, or visit the web site mentioned above, for more information.
Meditative Gardening Course from Hadley
Feeling stressed out? Check out the Hadley School for the Blind's new course, Stress Relief and Meditative Gardening. It's available online; the Chicago Botanic Gardens worked in collaboration with Hadley to put the course together. The course explains how to create a garden space in your home that can be used for stress relief and meditation. This four-lesson course begins with a description of healing gardens and explanation of the proven benefits of a healing garden. Lesson 2 provides information to help you choose an area in your home to create a meditative garden. Lesson 3 helps you choose the right plants for your garden. It explains the elements of basic houseplant needs, describes many different types of plants to choose from, and explores the qualities of healthy plants. Lesson 4 presents basic gardening techniques and explores calming, stress-reducing techniques to follow when in your meditative garden space. This course is open to students in Hadley's adult continuing education and high school programs. For more information, or to enroll, visit www.hadley.edu or contact Student Services at 1-800-526-9909 or [email protected].
New Web Site
Out of Step is a new web site where people with disabilities can sell products, offer services or post a resume for free. Individuals become members of Out of Step, and can use the marketplace to promote an existing business or start a new one. Members sell everything from art to software to bicycles, and offer services including financial planning, programming, dog walking and construction. And those looking for jobs can post a resume in categories including banking, human resources, logistics, sales and technical support. To learn more, visit www.outofstep.com.
Perkins Products Recognized
Perkins Products was recently recognized by U.S. Acting Secretary of Commerce Rebecca Blank with the President's "E" Award for Exports at a ceremony in Washington, D.C. The "E" Awards are the highest recognition any U.S. entity may receive for making a significant contribution to the expansion of U.S. exports. Among Perkins' exports: Perkins Braillers, SMART Braillers, and other specialized products for those who are blind. During the past six years, Perkins Products has increased its worldwide exports by more than 60 percent. First-time distributions were made in Saudi Arabia, Russia, Nigeria, Argentina, New Guinea, Angola, Estonia, Outer Mongolia, Serbia, and Yemen. And new products based on the original Perkins Brailler® are being introduced internationally, with the language(s) spoken in the countries where they are purchased being included.