A new challenge

Every so often my academic life gets a little challenging. I’m not talking about taking on too much because I am unable to say no because trust me, I know how to say no. I’m not talking about the social aspect (What are parties) lol. I’m not even talking about having a new roommate though I hear that can certainly be challenging.

I’m talking about being given an assignment that you’ve never heard of and not knowing how you’re going to complete it. For me such an assignment came this semester. I have to complete something called a reading inventory. Apparently it’s a book of tests that you have to give to a student that you pull out of class. The problem isn’t that I don’t understand how to give it. The problem is that I’m not sure how I’m going to give it.

Let me explain. In order to give this reading test to the student one has to be able to read along while observing how they read (mistakes, skip over words, put in new words, look at you for help etc). The problem is that I can’t read it (I have a screen reader). The problem is that I can’t read with a screen reader and listen to someone talk/read at the same time. This is definitely where a braille display (that I don’t have) could come in handy.

my question

Have you done anything like this before without a braille display? How? Do you have any suggestions I can use for this and any future assignments? if so, they’d be greately appreciated.

Thanks for reading!

Do you have any questions for me regarding college?

I just spent a good five minutes at least trying to think of something to write about for Monday (today). The only thing I can come up with is to ask you if you have any questions about college. Maybe you’re new to the whole college thing, or maybe you just have a question for me. Whatever it is ask me and I might be able to answer the question in the next blog post. Please keep in mind that I’m not an expert in all things college and anything I might say is either my opinion or gained through my experience. Yours may be completely different from mine and that’s okay. Send your questions to my twitter

It doesn’t have to be about the admissions process the questions can be about the availability of braille, screen readers, or textbooks and so on. I can’t answer questions about dorm living though. I’ve never actually lived in a dorm. Have a great day and thanks for reading this.

Buying textbooks.

We’ve come to that part just before the new semester where we have to buy our textbooks. I have some advice for you. Untill now I didn’t think my advice would be necessary. So here goes nothing!

First off whenever possible buy them from the college’s bookstore. Did I say buy… I mean rent. That is if a rent option is available at your college/university’s bookstore. Renting saves you money and you may be able to buy something else. Just don’t forget to turn them in on time so you won’t be charged late fees.

If you have to buy books and don’t want to use your college’s book store. (I do whenever possible because my financial aid pays for them.) You should try Ebates. There’s a bunch of book stores on there including: Amazon, Barnes N Noble ETC. When you shop through Ebates you get cashback. Though, the amount you get depends on the store. They go by percentages for example, with the appstore you get 7 percent cashback. Not a lot, but it’s something.

Note: This is not a scam. It is also not an endorsement. I just love Ebates so much. Also I know Ebates is available in the U. S. and Canada, but not sure about other places. Check their website for that sort of information.

If you have never signed up for Ebates before use my referral code. If you have any questions about Ebates or anything I’ve said here tweet me or find another way to get in touch. Warning! If you send an email it may take a while for me to respond. Please be patient.

Thanks for reading!

Fafsa: Financial aid

When I first started at the first college I had to fill out fafsa so that I could be eligible for financial aid. Which can include grants and scholarships through this website and had to be completed before the beginning of every semester. However, I was convinced that a screen reader wouldn’t work well with it. I was convinced that it would get hung up somewhere between the questions and the edit boxes, that it would just stop reading, or that it would get stuck somewhere on the application. Thus, causing me to forcefully shut down my computer, lose all my data, and have to start all over again. Hey! I’ve seen government run websites before. They’re not always the best for accessibility especially where screen readers are concerned. So I had the financial aid office at my college do it for me.

Imagine my surprise a semester or so ago when I discovered that it was fully accessible. (The new college I’d started attending was no where near me so I had no choice except to find out whether it was or not.) No hang ups, no getting stuck, and no not reading what was on the screen. No sighted help needed. Yay for that! That was a relief.

So if you’re going into college for the first time, are returning back to college, or like me never had to do it until now I want you to know that it works. At least with NVDA. I don’t have any other screen reader to test it with so if it doesn’t work with something please let me know. The questions are easy as long as you don’t let them overwhelm you. You can get a bunch of information from a previous application, or you can just start a new one. However you choose to do it please remember to read all the questions carefully before answering. Good luck!

My classes this past semester have(mostly) been online; some tips from me.

Yes as the title above suggests all of my classes except for one this past semester have been online. Here are some tips I’ve learned from that experience. I hope they can help you

2. Since the instructor/professor can’t see you because it’s an online class email them asap to alert them of your disabilities. During the first part of the semester (the semester was split into two 8 week periods with certain classes the first section and the rest on the last.) During the first 8-week period I had to take an english class. Midway through it finally occured to me to email the professor and tell him that I couldn’t see to make sure my papers were properly formatted. I then explained about my disability, the screen reader I used, and anything else I thought might be useful. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.

3. If someone corrects you in a duscussion forum about their name, which you mispelled, take it in stride. During that same english class I typed an m instead of an n at the end of someone’s name. They corrected me, I explained that I’d thought my screen reader was saying m instead of n and that I was very sorry. I also told them that people actually miss-pronounce my last name so I know how they felt. I think it helped.

4. Make sure every feature they’re going to use is accessible. I thought I had done that with my online orientation class, but apparently I’d neglected to check something. That something was whether or not the “Attach a file” thing in the discussion board was accessible. Bad news! It wasn’t so I had to have sighted help.

That’s all I can think of for now, but if I think of anything else I’ll be sure to either write another post, or add to this one. Thanks for reading! I hope you don’t make the same mistakes I did.

You don't look blind.

On my first day of class I walked in, and sat down. The teacher started lecturing on the first day’s lesson. Everything was going fine.

There was a slight hick-up on the way to the college when I realized that I’d forgotten my digital voice recorder. However, I remembered that I could record the lecture on my Iphone. So, for that moment at least it was fine.

I was sitting there staring at the white board in front of me. I could see that it was the white board because it looked different from the wall. Plus the teacher would occasionally stand in front of it. Occasionally when she stood there I could hear the sound the marker makes when someone’s writing on a white board. I was doing my best to pay attention to what the teacher was saying.

Then, the teacher asked for us to get into groups. She said that was the way we were going to work out problems in her class. Fine with me! So, we all get into groups, and start working on whatever problem we were assigned.

After about five minutes the teacher gets our attention again. She tells us that one of us is to introduce each member of our group. Then, explain how we got the answer we did.

I’m not quite sure how this occurred, but at some point the instructor started working out a problem on the board. She asked if we could all see it, and I whisper to my scribe that I can’t see what’s on the board I tell him that I’m also confused because I don’t know what’s on the board. So, he starts reading it to me.

I’m going to pause in my story, and say Teachers, instructors, and professors. Please for the love of your job tell the blind student what you’re writing on the board. Practice what you’re reading out loud before you have them in class if you have too. But please tell them what you’re writing. We need to know this information just as badly as our sighted peers.

So, back to the story. One of the girls looks over at my scribe, and says something to him that I don’t hear. He responds with “I’m telling her what’s on the board.” The girl says: “Why?” My scribe says:” “Because she can’t see.” Girl: *probably says something about moving.* Scribe: “No really. She can’t see. She’s blind.” Girl: “Really?” Scribe: “Yeah.” Girl: “Are you serious?” Scribe: “Yeah.” Girl: “That’s cool!” Girl to me: “Are you really blind??” Me: “yeah.” Girl: “I didn’t know that. You do it well.” Me not knowing what she meant: “Thanks! I try.”

I still don’t know what she meant. If it’s the blindness thing she was talking about. I wonder what she was expecting? I wanted to ask her that, but we moved on before I could. 🙂 Whatever she expected. I hope now she’ll expect more the next time she meets a blind person. Especially if it’s a student.

Thanks for reading!

Do you think you know more than me?

Earlier I was asking a friend who also writes for this blog about a paper I have to write. We started talking about how Jaws in particular doesn’t say “0.5 inches” when using the tab key. I should point out that NVDA doesn’t either. Anyway, that reminded me of a story, and I’m not sure if I ever posted it on here. Therefore, I’m telling it here. If I have posted it on here, sorry!

When I was in high school I had this English teacher who in my opinion thought she knew more than me. One day I walked into class, and she told that my paper wasn’t formatted correctly. Okay, no problem. It should have ended there, right?

She could have stopped there, and I could’ve not said something about jaws not saying “0.5 inches” when the tab key is pressed. Instead I did, and she said “I called the Missouri school for the blind, and they said that the margins are accessible.” Here I’d like to point out that all I’d said in response was that jaws says random numbers when tab is pressed. I said “Okay, but jaws still says random numbers when the tab key is pressed.” Long story short she continued to argue with me about until lunchtime.

I think it was a miss-understanding. I think if she would have asked about the tab key instead of the margins she would have understood what I meant. It would’ve saved me a lot of trouble.

another story happened with her that same year. At that time I had all of my textbooks in Braille. That spring in early April the school flooded, and the room where my books were got flooded as well. Some of my books including a volume of a literature book I needed got ruined. She argued with me about that one as well. I tried to explained that it got ruined by the water, and she kept saying that I had it. Um… how are you suppose to read a water-logged Braille textbook. I mean, you can’t read a print one, and Braille is a lot like that. Once the pages are stuck together, and the Braille dots pressed down to the point that they’re unreadable, good luck!

what I really wanted to ask here that day, and the day of the tab key incident is if she thought she was smarter than me. Me, who had used this product for years, and me, who had read Braille for years. Does a little knowledge do that to her head? Wow!

Teachers I beg of you, don’t do this to your students. Don’t assume that just because you’re a little older, went to college, called someone, or whatever it is that you know more than them. Don’t just automatically assuming the student is lying because they want to get out of work. If she would’ve known me as well as she thought she would’ve known that I wasn’t. I just wanted to get my diploma, and get out of there. So that I could attend college, and move on with the rest of my life. Remember, and think about the impact that you leave on your students. Because this is what I remember about her most. Not the funny jokes she told, not anything else she could’ve/or did do in the classroom that year, and I certainly I don’t remember any other conversation we had. Just this! Two incidents that I will never forget.

the lesson that I hope all teachers will take from this is to never assume that you know more than the student. Maybe ask for a demonstration of what they’re telling you, or ask why they say what they said. I offered to do a demonstration, and she wouldn’t let me. My goal in writing this is to help all teachers become a better teacher. You can do it! I have faith in you. Thanks for reading!

A source that could help teachers who teach blind or visually impaired students.

Since I am in the education field I often get asked how to teach this or that to a blind or visually impaired student. I try to answer the questions as best as I can. Sometimes I feel like my answers just aren’t good enough. Because I only know about “My” blindness, and what works for me. It doesn’t mean that what works for me will work for everyone though.

I came across this link while doing research on a paper that I have to write. I thought teachers who teach the blind or visually impaired students may find this useful. It does not matter whether you are a regular classroom teacher, or if you teach special education.

It contains links to multiple subjects (they call them folders). These include: math, physical education, geography, and more. For more information: please click here to read all that they have to offer.

Thanks for reading!

And you thought finding a print version of a textbook was hard

We’ve all been there. We’ve all had to buy/rent print textbooks for college. What if the college bookstore doesn’t have any? Now what? Most people would go online to look for college textbooks. If they couldn’t find what they were looking for by title, and author they’d probably use the ISBN number. (that number with all the dashes on… I think it’s the back of the book) Instead of the title/author/edition number. I know because I’ve done this. There’s nothing like practicing what you preach.

I know I complained on twitter that finding a certain print edition of a certain book is difficult. Don’t get me wrong, it is. The good news is that I finally found the book I was looking for, and am now waiting on my order to get here.

I’m getting slightly sidetracked. When I sat down to write this wasn’t the focus of this article. Instead I want to focus on how hard it is to obtain an accessible version of a textbook. EG. .txt, .pdf ETC. Note: I’m writing this as if it’s happening right now, but here’s what I went through in a nutshell.

I did the “type in the author/title/book edition thing, and I couldn’t find it. So, I typed in variations of those things, and I still couldn’t find the correct edition. I can find individual chapters, which is grate, but not the whole book. I even tried typing in the ISBN number.

Today I’m going to try typing in the publisher. Usually if you do this the publisher’s website will show up in the search results. The keyword here is “usually” because nothing happened. I can’t find the publisher anywhere. Which is ashamed because I really wanted to request that textbook in an accessible format. Why is this so complicated? *imagines pulling out own hair. Doesn’t feel any better.*

Okay so, what if I have the cousin look. No luck there either. As she got the same results as me. I can buy a P. D. F. for from $67 up to $100, but with most of these offers I have to buy the print version first. Plus I’m not really sure how much money I have to spend. So, I’m just going to say none.

Okay, back to the drawing board. Amazon? Nope!Bard? (long shot, but worth a try. At this point I was getting desperate.) Still nothing, though I didn’t actually think there would be. How about Bookshare? Okay, this is weird. Every time I search for the author/title/edition, nothing. I’m not sure why, but my gut says they have the 9th edition. Too bad because my syllabus says that I need the 8th. 🙁

*fills out a book request form, sends.* *waits until the next day* *gets an email back asking if I can use the 9th edition* *responds with “Not sure. The one I requested is the one in my syllabus, so I would assume not”* The response says that it’ll take awhile to format it and stuff. No big deal. I know that. I can wait. I have the print version, so someone can read it to me. I’d prefer to read it for myself, but it’ll do for now. *emails instructor about using the 9th edition, recieves no response.*

Now, here’s the thing I’m not proud of. I ranted on twitter about being asked if I could use the 9th version. I’ll get into an explanation of that in another blog. I also realized after the fact that I should have went further with the coke and Pepsi thing, and say that it’s like being asked after you already said “Coke.” When asked what you would like to drink, but I didn’t. Long story short I felt bad about writing that, and I apologized. I’m sure you can find said rant on twitter if you really want to read it.

Long story short they are now going to add the 8th edition, but it’s going to take about six weeks. I’m glad they’re doing that, but it sucks that I have to wait so long.

This all took place within the period of three days. I should probably point that out. I didn’t start looking for it before hand because I thought it would be easy to find. Plus I hate downloading syllabuses a few days before class starts. Because if the professor/instructor changes anything, then you have to go re-download the syllabus again. Lesson learned don’t assume that finding a book in any accessible format, or any format for that matter is going to be easy. If you can start looking before your class actually starts, and you can feel yourself slipping slowly behind. Because you don’t have the textbook you thought would be so easy to find. I know I’ve definitely learned this lesson. P. S. I still can’t find the publisher’s website, and the office of disability services can’t find them, or a P. D. F that isn’t going to cost them an arm or a leg.

Thanks for reading!

I gotta have a print version too?

Apparently I do. I gotta have the print version of all of my textbooks before I can get the same textbooks in an accessible formatt that I can read. Why is this? Apparently it’s something to do with copyright laws, or something.

The short end of the story is that I’ve never had to order my own books. I just went to the college’s bookstore (when I attended classes on campus), and they helped me out. So, I’m completely lost. I have no clue what I’m doing. I still wish I didn’t have to buy print editions just to get one that I can read. That makes absolutely no sense to me. I can understand it if they have to scan it in, and create a P. D. F. or whatever. But getting those formatts from the publisher? I don’t understand the logic behind that one.

I guess I’ll keep trying until someone helps me out. I emailed the person in charge of the office of disabilities at my new college. So, we’ll see what happens. Now I’m going to go work on homework, and try not to think about giving myself a headache.

Thanks for reading!

  • Our twitter

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