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.

Because she had too (Audio Version)

I’m proud to present
“Because She Had To”
in it’s most splendid format so far. I enjoied making this just as much if not much than I enjoy doing my show each week. And now, please enjoy Ms Stephanie Surratt’s Because She Had To.

How to make P. D. F.s accessible

I know. I know. You’ve encountered the “This document is empty” or “this document is secure” Error again. I’ve been there, and I’ve done that. Don’t you wish you could explain to people how to make that inaccessible P. D. F. accessible? Well now you can just throw them one, or both of these links. I prefer throwing them both because they are two separate videos. 🙂
Here is the first one.

Here’s the second one.

I should probably point out that it will take a sighted person to use some of these things suggested. Especially the things suggested in the second video that I posted. Anyway, I hope you find them useful. 🙂

Thanks for reading!

Using a smartboard with text to speech

The following is an article review that I wrote for a Professor. Please remember that though this article is old I am posting it now because I think it’s interesting, and can possibly help you in some way. I hope you enjoy, and find this interesting like I did when I first read said article.

I can remember being in school, and having to use my computer to show my work to my teachers. While, I did not have access to a book in an accessible format on the computer I sometimes thought that it would be easier. This is because I often did not know how to do certain symbols, and maybe if I had had a text to speech voice reading the problems to me I could have figured I out.
When I was in school they really pushed to have all my books including the math book in braille. I am not sure if you have ever picked up a braille book, but they are very heavy especially when you have to carry more than one around on a daily basis. Even more so, if the class requires you to bring/read more than one chapter. Just to give you an idea one chapter of a book fills up one volume of a braille book; sometimes two or more. This especially true if you are dealing with a math book. So, I can see having the book in accessible format can be helpful. However, the only benefit I can’t see is how one is suppose to read graphs, and shapes; since text to speech voices do not read pictures, graphs, sometimes tables, and shapes. Thus, I would advocate a set of graphs, or shapes, or tables in braille, or something that the student could feel to go along with this technology.
As I was reading through this the first time It occurred to me that although, they were studying kids in a sixth grade classroom there was no mention of graphs. So, I am kind of wondering how the students performed when for example, their text to speech voices encountered a graph. As far as I know there is nothing that will allow the text to speech program to actually read the graph. Though, it may tell you that there is one there.
I think it is cool that if it is done right one can read whatever is on the smartboard. I use to have the teacher read everything out loud to me. I think not having to read everything out loud could save some time in the classroom.
Since I am blind I will be able to fix the book/assignments so that they are available on a student’s computer, or at least give advice to whomever is in charge of doing that. Unlike when I had to wait for a teacher to send things down to my aid to be embossed I will plan ahead. That way the blind or visually student can get it done correctly, and I can be sure that it’s right. Because what the article does not tell you is that sometimes when you send things down to be embossed one or two days in advance the braille/ scanning process isn’t done as well as it should be. Also, the article mentioned something about the students not being able to get things ready in time. I experienced that in school, then I would have to rush to catch up with what the teacher was saying. I would time how long it takes to start the technology, and whatever else the student uses for my class. Then, I would plan my lessons appropriately. That way the student does not have to rush to catch up with what I am saying.
I would (if I was teaching a grade that had to use graphs) use this technology in my classroom in combination with other things such as, models, braille stuff, and anything else that could possibly help the child. I say this because when it comes to graphs I am something of a visual learner. I tend to do better if I can actually see the graph, and I would imagine that a lot of blind students are that way to. However, if I was teaching a lwer elementary grad (where graphs weren’t being used) I could see the full benefits for this. It might also help them to hear how the symbols are pronounced, so in either case I would probably use it for myself too.
I would use it for teaching things like algebra, addition, and subtraction. I think it would be handier than waiting on someone to find the appropriate braille book for the day. Though, I think it would take extra time to load up the stuff I think it could be worth the wait. In addition, having experienced times when teachers have started before I was ready; I would time how long it would take for everything to start, and plan my lessons appropriately.
link to the article

I can't believe that my professor let me do this! :)

So today I got to do something that was kind of cool.
I got to send an email to my entire tech for teachers’ class that included a link to a screen reader. This was upon my instructor’s request.
How did it happen?
We were talking about what not to do when making your own website, and I said that adding music or some sound that you couldn’t shut off was not a good idea because blind or visually impaired people can’t hear their screen readers. The professor said that he’d never played with one, but that he knew about them. So I said that I had a link to one that was free.
Which screen reader did I choose?
The first one I chose was NVDA because… I like it.
The second one I chose was Jaws because a lot of blind or visually impaired people still use it dispite it’s enormous cost. I have to admit that I still use it for things like Microsoft word ETC. I did point out that it can run in 40 minute mode, but once the 40 minutes are up you have to restart your computer. (for those who don’t know) the 40 minute mode is free. (at least I think that still exists with Jaws) However if you want to run it nonstop you have to buy the program.
Why am I telling you all of this?
Because some of you may be sighted, and want to play with a screen reader (text to speech program as I prefer to call it. Mostly because it helps with clarification) Some of you may be teachers, or may be considering going into the field. My goal is to expose as many teachers as I can to this technology so that when they reach the classroom and get a blind or visually impaired student they’ll know how to help, or modify the lessons so the student can get the best from the class.
The website to download NVDA
Website for Jaws and other useful materials
I just had to post this. 🙂
Thanks for reading!

First day of classes.

So I wrote in the last blog about how nervous I get on the first day of school. In this blog I thought I’d take you through my first day of classes (I’ll leave out all the boring details though.)
My day started at 5 a. m. I know it’s early, but it’s what time I had to get up in order to eat breakfast ETC. After I ate breakfast we headed off to college.
After I got to college we went in search of my first classroom. (we being my dad and I) When we went into what we thought was my first class’s room, and found a seat. After a few minutes I realized that no one was showing up, so I had my dad look at the schedule. It turns out it was the wrong room
After my tech for teachers class (my first class) the teacher came and talked to me. I told him my concerns with power point and how I had known how to use it in version 2003 but not in 2010. He said he’d work with me. Then, he gave me a USB Key (also known as a UsB Pen, or USB Key) containing all of the assignments for the class.
The next two classes I had were with the same professor who’d had me in a previous class. So there were no nerves there. She already knew what to expect, and I already knew she would work with me.
My math class (my last class) was the most interesting of all. Remember the wrong classroom we went into? It turns out that my math class met in that room. After class started I discovered that the math department is now using this computer software (I’ll write more about it in the next blog) which used flash player. Now, if you know anything about Jaws and flash player; you know that these two don’t always play nice with each other. When I brought this to the instructor’s attention, he said he’d work with me. He also suggested several alternatives if the program wouldn’t work. He even said that he would contact the company who makes the software and ask them how well the software works with Jaws.
Can I just say that I love it when a teacher/professor is willing to work with me? 🙂
Thanks for reading

What happens if you can't get braille books?

I’ve seen on twitter and different places that people want to get all braille books when they go to college. What if you can’t? What if they are unavailable?
For most books (as I’ve said in a previous post) this is true. However, you may be able to find some books such as math books in braille. This in itself is difficult to do. I should know that has been my experience every since I started college.
Even if I didn’t plan on taking my classes the next Fall (which I did not, luckily) It still is difficult to find a math book in braille.
It’s made even more difficult when the head of the department decides to change the books at the last minute.
So what did I do instead?
I first got my books in audio (not a math book) And then after I found out about it I got them in PDF format. This works better for most books (there’s no one reading the book to me. And I don’t have to worry about if they’re going to sound like they’re interested in what they’re reading or not.) However I worry about my math book especially where Geomotry and stuff like that is concerned.
Why?
Because as I’ve stated before none of the text to speech programs (screen readers) I have will read graphs and tables and other things like that. In fact, I don’t know of one that will.
Which brings me back to why a person would want a book in braille. This would be the reason. For me it’s easier if I can physically read it or look at it (especially graphs.)
I hope that some day there will be more math and science books available for blind and visually impaired people at the college level. 🙂 But for now, I’ll stick to getting my books in PDF, and hoping for the best
Thanks to my student adviser who helped me look for them. I really appreciate it.
Thanks for reading!.

The nice things that my teachers and Professors have done for me

I thought that since the last couple of posts talked about huge egos aned what makes me lose respect for you as a teacher that I would end this little series (if you want to call it that) by telling you some of the amazing things that my teachers and professors have done for me.

Let’s start with Ms. Biology professor with the huge ego since I seem to pick on her a lot.

In spite of me doing so she did do some pretty amazing things for me and future blind and visually impaired students who may have to take biology someday.

To start with she took my suggestions on how to make the labs better. Remember those lab critiques that I posted here? That wasn’t for you guys. I arriginally made them for her to help her understand what I needed for that class. After talking to her about it she allowed me to put them on here as long as I didn’t use her name in them. I agreed, and that’s how they ended up here.

I like when teachers come up to their students who are blind or visually impaired and ask for advice or suggestions on certain things. It makes me feel good especially when I know the answer, or have a good idea for  something that might work.

Towards the end of the semester she asked me about screen readers (text to speech programs) because they were thinking about getting one for the biology department’s computer lab. I suggested NVDA instead of Jaws because 1. it costs less. and 2 it’s better for most things then jaws. She agreed, but I have no idea if she’s looked into it yet. 🙂

I’m glad I could help her in that way, I just wish we could have talked about the note taker situation like adults. Even though I wasn’t supposed to know about it. I’m also glad that her and the rest of the Biology department worked with me, took my suggestions, and implimented them. Even though I had been their first blind student and they weren’t prepaired for me. At least when another one comes along they will be more prepaired for them then they were for me. 🙂

When I was in second grade I had this teacher who was very nice to me. She included me in things, let me draw on the chalkboard (even though I couldn’t draw) during five- minute breaks as she called them. I got to participate a little bit in the classroom as far as I can remember (I don’t really remember much from my early elementary years) (Elementary is also called Gramar school) Anyway, when I got to fourth grade she showed up to the classroom one day with a present for me. It turned out to be a talking watch. My first talking watch. It turns out that she found it in a magazine full of toys. Thank you second grade teacher who shal not be named. I’ve never forgotten your gift to me. 🙂

Out of all the years that I was in school the ones that stick out to me the most are my middle school and high school years. These years were when the teachers really took an interest in me and began trying to help me succeed. First let’s start with middle school also known as junior high. There are four teachers who stick out here the most. The first is the woman who became my vision impaired teacher (teacher who teaches blind or visually impaired people) She was my special education teacher (I have a learning disability in math) Even when she wasn’t the one teaching me she was the one who worked with others to come up with ideas and suggestions that may or may not help me. Some of them worked, and some of them didn’t work as well as intended. Thank you for being my Vision impaired teacher, and thank you for tutoring me in math when I needed it. 🙂

The second was my seventh and eighth grade english teacher. She was observant, funny, and if a student could have teachers as friends she’s one of the best. Thanks for being you. 🙂

The third one was my seventh and eighth grade math teacher. I liked him because he watched my aid work with me on math, and when she was having trouble explaining something to me he explained it in a different way so that I could understand it. He also showed the substitute how to work with me when my aid wasn’t there. Thanks for being observant. You may have thought I didn’t notice, but I did. And I apreciated every minute of it. Thanks for not making me feel dumb when I got an answer wrong. 🙂

The fourth was my eighth grade history teacher. When I asked if she could explain a picture she did it in a way that allowed me to get a picture of it in my head. Thanks for making history fun. 🙂 She also changed the air freshner in her room back to what it had been in the beginning of the year just because I said that it was one of the ways that I used to find her room. Thank you for that as well.

There’s only one high school teacher who sticks out in my mind. I won’t give her name, but she read one of my books and encouraged me to get it published. I’ve never forgotten that, so now I’m kind of looking into self publishing. We’ll see how this goes. Thanks for the encouragement, and you should feel special I remember you for a completely different reason then most of the others. Granted you helped me, but not in a sclassroom “she needs help” sort of way. Thanks for all the help with all the college stuff too. 🙂

I have a lot of professors who’ve helped me in different ways, allowing me to turn in assignments even though they’re late, resending me lost assignments ETC, and making sure I have everything I need for their class. To them I want to say thank you.

There has been two professors who have really stuck out in my mind so far, but for two completely different reasons. One was the professor whom I wrote about in a previous blog who told me who he was, and made the class do it too. Thanks for that professor. I really appreciate it. 🙂 The second was the professor that I had for Government. You taught me a lot sir. Not only that, but you made the class interesting. And I’m glad you described things in detail, so that I could get a clear picture. 🙂

None of you had to do what you did for me, and for that I think all of you from the bottom of my heart. I can’t say it enough, thank you, thank you, thank you.

I hope you enjoyed reading this blog. It’s been in my head for a while, so today I decided to write it out. 🙂

Thank you all very much for reading it. 🙂

  • Our twitter

    • Archived post: Some Websites That I Know Of That Work Well With Jaws https://t.co/G8iAVyx2Ml
      about 7 hours ago
    • Archived post: First day of classes. https://t.co/ezdqpWBzxL
      about 15 hours ago
    • Archived post: Tactile Drawing Board: a way to graph https://t.co/crvZlmUkgn
      about 23 hours ago
    • Archived post: A New Accessible Website https://t.co/32cS2zoxzI
      about 1 day ago
    • Archived post: Mom I don't know if I'd ever want to see. https://t.co/RptM51YDhQ
      about 2 days ago
    • Archived post: Introducing: havecanewilltravel https://t.co/LMRWCAv8vv
      about 2 days ago
    • Archived post: Complete WEBAIM survey 7 https://t.co/rnQrqNRTwY
      about 2 days ago
    • Archived post: Graduation And an announcement https://t.co/hKQnl0hBX6
      about 3 days ago
    • Archived post: What happens if you can't get braille books? https://t.co/7RGKh5cI9j
      about 3 days ago
    • Archived post: Missing members of the team. What happened? https://t.co/PRAUeN8n95
      about 3 days ago