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Tackle the Tech

Free, on-demand, high-quality, accessible training resources from Freedom Scientific (JAWS, Fusion, ZoomText, and Focus Blue Braille displays)!

Transition Tip Tuesday for December 29, 2020

Freedom Scientific provides wonderful tools: screen reading software, screen magnification software, a combination of both, and refreshable Braille displays. But Freedom Scientific does not stop there: they have created an immense pool of free and accessible training tools for students and teachers.

Did you know that JAWS provides access to Google products like Google Calendar, Docs, Sheets, and Slides?

Did you know that JAWS also provides access to Microsoft products, including Windows, Outlook, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive, Teams, and Skype?

Did you know that ZoomText users can harness the power of JAWS with Fusion—combining the best of screen reading and screen magnification software?

With technology demands increasing every day, we encourage you to explore the wealth of training resources available from Freedom Scientific and make this powerful accessible assistive technology work for you! Please check out our Freedom Scientific Resource Guide.

Also, Freedom Scientific’s Teaching Resources might be the perfect post-holiday gift for your teachers and parents.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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Get a jump start on college (and the SAT/PSAT) with these free online resources!

Transition Tip Tuesday for December 22, 2020

Read more about these options to keep you sharp over the holiday break:

  • Modern States (free study resources for CLEP and AP exams)
  • Khan Academy (free study resources for school classes, PSAT, SAT, and AP exams)
  • Crash course (free content for school courses, study skills, and just for fun)

College is a great time for learning, and there is SO much to learn and explore. There are also quite a few “introductory” level courses you must take, and they often account for one or two of your four years in college.

But you can also earn credits for those introductory courses while still in high school– more opportunity for electives, option to take more classes in your major, and reducing your course load for the first semester or two so that you have time to get disability services in place. Drawing on her personal experiences, Bridges Project Coordinator Hindley Williams shares that it can be REALLY good to take a lower load (minimum is typically 12 credits) the first semester of freshman year so that you can acclimate to college, iron out disability-related accommodations, etc.

MODERN STATES

Modern States advertises “Freshman Year for Free,” and while the courses are completely free, you must still pay for College Board the exam, just like with AP exams. Also, you’ll need to sign up in order to access the course materials. They offer a wide range of courses to prepare you for CLEP (college-level examination program) exams or AP (advanced placement) exams. CLEP exams are a really nice option for students because you can take them anytime—you can schedule them on your timeline in contrast to AP exams that are offered on only one day of the year. Also, while AP exams usually require that you have taken an AP class with your school, CLEP has no such requirement. With the free materials From Modern States, you may study what, when, and how you want. Each course also includes quizzes and other tools to check your understanding of the materials presented. Check out the list of courses Modern States offers.

What about Accessibility?

We have found the Modern States website to be accessible. We tested it with both JAWS and iOS (on an iPhone). While the computer interface is a bit easier to use, the site was quite accessible on the iPhone as well. For instruction, Modern States predominantly uses videos. While there does not appear to be audio description built in, the presenters do a pretty good job of verbalizing graphics on the videos. Additionally, the modules have a transcript of the video, the slides used in the video (though there are some undescribed graphics on those slides), and a summary of each video. While these tools are not as accessible as we’d like to see, they are a great start. You might even want to share this resource with your classroom teacher or TVI so that they can help overcome the lingering areas of inaccessibility in the course materials.

KHAN ACADEMY

Khan Academy has many, many free resources available. Like Modern States, you must sign up for the resources, and Khan Academy offers assessments along the way so you may track your progress. Khan Academy uses both videos and written articles for instruction, but the videos are not always audio described, and many of the articles contain graphics without alt text descriptions. While Khan Academy is taking steps to increase its accessibility to individuals who use screen reading and screen magnification software, they still have a long way to go. Nevertheless, Khan Academy has some great resources, and many teachers use them for enrichment purposes. It’s quite reasonable for you to ask your teachers to supplement these materials with descriptions that make the content accessible for you. Peruse the list of courses Khan Academy offers.

Crash Course

Crash course has more than one thousand videos on a variety of topics (here is the full list). While the speaker is rather descriptive in his presentations, the videos do not contain audio description. Additionally, the website, itself, is not coded properly for a screen reader user (buttons are poorly labeled or unlabeled, etc.). Nevertheless, the content is upbeat and engaging, and it has gotten good reviews from blind/low vision students. Thus, it might be worth digging in despite its lack of good accessibility practices.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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Bridges Blog

Explore the Wonders of Audio Description!

Transition Tip Tuesday for December 15, 2020

Audio description provides verbal descriptions of visual elements of a movie, television show, or other videos. These elements include unspoken words on the screen, descriptions of the setting, and details about characters’ non-verbal actions, facial expressions, dress, etc.

Audio description (AD) is built into the video. In professional AD, the AD voice is usually different than that of the actors, and the description is inserted between the dialogue.

Not only does this rich source of information help blind/low vision individuals enjoy the show more, it is great for everyone. I’m typically sighted, and I LOVE having audio description.

AD can be great for any videos you watch:

  • When a teacher assigns a video, ask that you receive an audio described version. If the teacher doesn’t know what you’re talking about, ask him/her to contact the Bridges Helpdesk and we’ll show them how to find or make what you need!
  • “How to” videos on the internet
  • Movies and shows you watch for recreation

Warning: There is a BUNCH of information below. Please don’t feel overwhelmed. Don’t hesitate to contact us about AD or anything else. Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

What is available in audio description?

Of course, this information changes all the time: especially with regard to television and movies. However, here are a few sources to get you started:

Now, where to get it? Here are a few sources:

Free videos

Free audio only

Fee-based video

  • Cable: Major cable television providers offer audio description as a service. Please note that AD will only work when the original show has been made with AD. Check out Xfinity/Comcast’s accessibility page, which includes a video about AD (also called video description):
  • Amazon Prime described videos
  • Netflix AD information
  • Hulu AD information
  • Disney+
    • All new, original Disney+ shows have AD
    • AD has been added to many older movies and shows
    • All Pixar movies are now audio described
    • Many Disney movies are also described
    • Note: The free and accessible Disney Movies Anywhere app has been discontinued, and its replacement, the Movies Anywhere app, does NOT support audio description

Holiday audio description offerings

Contact us

Again, please follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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Bridges Blog

Controlling the Chat in Zoom

Transition Tip Tuesday for December 8, 2020

Have you ever felt bombarded by your screen reader voicing chat messages during Zoom meetings?

Are you missing lesson content because the chats never seem to stop?

Well, here is an easy solution—one that puts YOU in control of the chat box!

1.    Download the Zoom desktop client.

On a computer, you can use the internet or the Zoom app to join a meeting. However, if you join through the Zoom app, you will have the control to mute and unmute the Zoom chat. It also gives you the opportunity to control other Zoom alerts.

2.    Accessing control over Zoom alerts

Make sure that your screen reader is on.

Open the Zoom app (you can get to it quickly by typing the Windows key and typing the word “Zoom” into the search box).

Go to “Settings” and then to “Accessibility.” There is a list of items under “Screen Reader Alerts.” The first item is “IM Chat Received,” and the default is to “enable” this feature. You may disable this feature by unchecking the box. While you’re there, check out the other screen reader alerts you can enable or disable.

3.    During the meeting

You may also enable or disable the in-meeting chat by typing the key combination Alt + Windows key + S. Like most other Zoom commands, this is a toggle, and the same key combination will turn the chat on or off.

Also, if you use the key combination Alt + Windows key, it will silence (or turn on) announcements of people entering or leaving the Zoom meeting.

4.    Getting the chat information

This part takes a little planning. You’ll need to talk with the Zoom host (probably your teacher.)

No matter what option you choose for the whole chat, ask the Zoom host (teacher) to immediately voice any chat input that is important to the meeting. They should already be doing this (after all, phone callers cannot access the chat), but it is great to remind them to do so.

For chat information that is not important to the presentation, getting a CHAT TRANSCRIPT is a great solution.

Option 1: If the meeting is being recorded, ask the teacher to send you a copy of the chat transcript.

The host will need to turn on “Auto saving chats” in Settings (under “Meetings” then “In Meeting (Basic).”

Option 2: If Option 1 won’t work, ask the host to leave the meeting open for a couple of minutes after the meeting so that you may copy the Chat Transcript.

At the end of the meeting, press Alt + H to open the Chat.

Focus on the chat (you may need to use the Shift + Tab keyboard command a few times) and select all (Control + A).

Paste your selection in a blank document, and check to make sure you got it.

Let the host (teacher) know that you have the chat, and say thank you.

Now, there are certainly other ways to accomplish these tasks, but the ones we have shared are great places to start.

Have a wonderful week, and Happy Zooming!!

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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Bridges Blog

GivingTuesday, all year long!

Transition Tip Tuesday for December 1, 2020

Send or receive funds from friends and acquaintances for…FREE!

That’s right. There’s an ACCESSIBLE way to transfer money between bank accounts without the need for a paper check or cash: Venmo.

Venmo is an application that allows people to transfer money between themselves with no fees (there is a charge if you use a credit card, though). You simply send or receive funds via the Venmo app on your phone or computer. Venmo is owned by PayPal and has good security features. However, as always, be careful with your personal banking information and make sure you are sending funds to a trusted source.

Blind/low vision individuals can use accessible software to use this app. Venmo is available at no cost from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store. You may also access your Venmo account on the web.

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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