Categories
Teen Blog

Jan 22 Newsletter Teen and Young Adult Programs

News from IMAGE Teen and Young Adult Programs January 2022

Highlights

The New Year doesn’t feel so new, but were still here together!
As we approached 2022 many of us have had daydreams of life back to “normal”. While the reality is that this newest year has not quite gotten us there yet there are still ways that we can adapt to keep life enjoyable and moving forward for ourselves and the one’s around us. We hope this month’s newsletter helps you to realize that we are still all here, together, no matter the circumstance. We will keep moving forward. We will keep learning. We will keep growing. More importantly we will keep engaging. We will keep laughing. We will keep showing up. Cheers to 2022!


Our Current Reality
Our teen and young adult programs here at IMAGE were bursting at the seams excited to end the year with higher requests for in person learning sessions and our hybrid learning options were giving students and their families wonderful options for both virtual and in person opportunities. Unfortunately, extending COVID numbers began cancelling out many of our in person sessions as we began approaching this new year. As much as we idolize our rock star students, staff and families none of them have been immune to this nasty virus. We don’t have the answers, but our only goal remains to keep everyone learning and to keep everyone safe. With the majority of our programs being community based our options for restrictions are extremely varied at this time as you can imagine. With more and more students accessing our programs we certainly do not want to limit our programming options for students based on smaller group sizes. With all of these things in mind you will see that once again our upcoming teen and young adult programs will be virtual and that’s okay. We are still here. We are going to continue to provide learning opportunities to as many students as possible no matter what this virus has to say about it. So stay with us. We, as always, are monitoring the best options for everyone. We continue to hear each and everyone of you. We know that our community is extraordinary and that at times we have to weigh many extraordinary considerations. So we will continue to do that. Together we will keep moving forward even if sometimes it feels like we are moving backwards!

Peer Mentor Spotlight

A female Peer Mentor student assisting another male student in a learning activity with pencil and paper at a Connect program event.

Winter Application is OPEN!

Applications for students wishing to become Peer Mentors for the Winter session of the Connect program are now open.
Interested in applying for Peer Mentorship?
This winter Peer Mentors will have the opportunity to work alongside student interns from Towson University in addition to participation in the Connect Program. Peer Mentors will engage in both zoom training sessions, as well as peer mentor opportunities within our Connect program.

Click here to apply

Questions? Email Jessica Leone at Jleone@imagemd.org

Celebrating Fearless Moments

At IMAGE we encourage our teens and young adults to step outside of their comfort zone to reach their greatest potential. One way that we do that is by reminding students that is okay to be unapologetically themselves, fearless of who they are and what others may or may not think of them. We hope this month’s celebration of fearlessness past and present inspires you to celebrate yourself and all that you contribute to the world around you!
Here is to being FEARLESSLY you today!

Self Care Bingo. Give yourself a compliment. Do a hobby. Have fun. Drink Water. Challenge Negative Thoughts. Listen to your body. Sit with your feelings. Talk with a friend. Get dressed. Stay Alive. Practice Mindfulness. Take a break. Try something New.
This month we celebrate you! Our students. Our families. You are fearless every darn day! Don’t forget to take care our yourselves! Right Click and save this self-care bingo card to print. You can use it alone or as a family. Either way don’t forget to take care of YOU! That is the only way that we can be sure to help take care of others too. Thank you to @AlyseRurianiDesign for this fun idea!

Upcoming Events

The Connect Program


Registering now for our virtual winter sessions!

Session Dates: 2/1, 2/15, 3/1, 3/15, 3/29 and 4/12

The Connect Program is a program that empowers teens and young adults with disabilities to step outside of their comfort zone, make connections with their community, build social experiences and recognize and achieve skills needed for increased independence in adulthood. These skills include money management, time management, social and communication skills, personal hygiene, meal planning and decision making skills just to name a few.

Contact jleone@imagemd.org learn more.


Click here to Register
PreETS Self Awareness and Self Advocacy Training Program


Registration now open for sessions starting in February!

Want to be referred for this program?
Contact Jessica Leone jleone@imagemd.org for information


The Self Awareness & Self Advocacy Training program through DORS is a five week program utilizing curriculum designed to empower teens with disabilities to explore areas of self awareness and promote the importance of self advocacy to enhance the overall independence and vocational opportunity of each student. During this program students will work with professional staff from The IMAGE Center to begin to engage in curriculum addressing Self Awareness & Advocacy, Disclosing Disability, Rights, Future Outlook, Transition Outlook and Utilizing Resources.


Contact jleone@imagemd.org learn more.

Support Youth Programs at The IMAGE Center

Categories
Bridges Blog Series: Resolutions for Resilience 2022

Resolutions for Resilience: Hacks for Making Screenshots/Screen-shares Accessible

January always ushers in a new year, and many take the opportunity to develop New Year’s Resolutions during this month. While Resolutions can take many forms (including diet, exercise, etc.), the Free Bridges Helpdesk offers some tips for helping you get the access you need with Resolutions for Resilience.

  • Coaching Your Teachers on Accessibility
  • Controlling the Chat in Online Classes
  • Hacks for Making Screenshots/Screen-shares Accessible
  • Hacks for Making Text PDFs Accessible

In this third installment of our “Resolutions for Resilience” series, we share some tips that can help you get access to text that is shared in online classes.

Why It Matters

People who are unfamiliar with blindness/low vision often assume that any text that is in electronic and/or digital form is automatically accessible. For instance, they may take a picture of a text-filled flyer and assume that a blind/low vision individual can read the text because “It’s digital!”

In reality, this is not the case. While digital documents CAN be accessible, many are just as inaccessible as are paper documents. Screenshots and screen-shares are perfect examples of taking accessible information and making it inaccessible.

Distance Learning is Here to Stay

Even though schools and other organizations are beginning to meet in person more, we have reached a point in society at which distance communication tools, like Zoom, have become fixtures as meeting spaces for school, employment, and community organizations, including seminars about special interests.

Zoom, in particular, is a very accessible platform for blind/low vision individuals. However, when an accessible document is screen-shared, that document becomes completely inaccessible because it is “rendered to meeting participants as an HD video stream.” From Zoom’s Accessibility Frequently Asked Questions web page. This same technology is used in other online meeting platforms.

Thus, for the foreseeable future, individuals who cannot easily access video sharing must find alternative solutions to achieve accessibility.

Potential Solution: Get Accessible Documents Ahead of Time

As noted above, many people, including educators, do not understand how blind/low vision people interact with digital documents. This is a great time for you, and teach your teachers!

Let them know that screen-shared documents are not accessible. Tell them that you aren’t getting access to the video portion of Zoom – it’s like you are only on the phone. Even if you can see the video a bit, you cannot access it with the ease or the speed of typically-sighted peers.

Next, offer solutions! Explain to them what kind of document works best for you. Examples may include Word documents and PowerPoints instead of printouts that are then scanned in as PDFs. Ask for the documents before the presentation so that you can preview them to help you follow along during the presentation. Share these Word and PowerPoint Accessibility Resources with them, too!

Potential Solution: Make the Inaccessible Accessible

While it is best to get accessible versions of documents being shared, you might not get them. What to do then?

Screen-sharing isn’t accessible, and neither are screenshots – until YOU make them accessible! When you do not receive accessible versions of screen-shared documents ahead of the presentation, there are tools you can use to TAKE CONTROL and get ACCESS to the text on the screen-share!

Freedom Scientific software provides a great tool for this purpose: Convenient Optical Character Recognition (Convenient OCR). You can use Convenient OCR with files (such as PDFs and images), but you can also use it “on the fly” to capture screen-shared information DURING a distance video presentation.

Take Control of the Screen in Real-time

Here’s how to use Convenient OCR to access text on an inaccessible screen:

  • For best results, use the “Full Screen” option to display the screen-share you wish to access.
  • Run Convenient OCR by using the following layered commands:
    • JAWS key and spacebar at the same time (you’ll hear JAWS announce “space”)
    • Then the letter O (you’ll hear JAWS announce “O; OCR”)
    • Then the letter S (to OCR the screen – you’ll hear JAWS announce “OCR started using Omnipage; Finished; JAWS cursor”)
  • Now that JAWS has performed OCR on the screen, you can access the information by using typical JAWS reading commands (such as JAWS key plus down arrow)
  • ** Note that Convenient OCR leaves you with the JAWS cursor. JAWS will begin reading wherever your JAWS cursor is, even if it is not at the top of the page. For this reason, you may need to arrow up to get to the top of the page.
  • ** Note: If you tab away from the screen where you have performed Convenient OCR, the OCR is lost. When you go back, you’ll need to use Convenient OCR again (JAWS key plus spacebar; O; S).

Distance Presentations are only the Beginning!

Optical Character Recognition tools like Convenient OCR offer you the power to use your computer to access inaccessible text both independently and efficiently. Even more: you can save that now-accessible text to access (and edit) later.

Of course, the availability of OCR does not diminish the value of accessible documents. OCR is good, but it’s not perfect, and OCR doesn’t necessarily give you information about headings and text structure. Moreover, with OCR, you are having to capture and convert the documents during the presentation – which interferes with your ability to pay attention to the presentation itself. Nevertheless, Convenient OCR can be a valuable tool in your toolbox, and you could use it in other ways, such as on inaccessible websites and text on YouTube videos.

Practice Early, and Let Us Help

Using Convenient OCR and other OCR software can be quite empowering, but it’s no fun to have to practice new skills in real-time. Please call on us here at the Free Bridges Helpdesk to help!

Contact us, and we’ll set up a time that’s convenient for you to talk about OCR and other tools and to practice using them. We can set up a Zoom session where you can practice capturing screen-shared text with us supporting you every step of the way. Remember, all Bridges Helpdesk help is private and confidential, and we are here for you.

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.

Categories
Blog

Solutions 2021

2021 Solutions Celebration Opening Video
The Smiles Behind the Masks: A Tribute to our Bike Team!

Click here for a text description of the Smiles Behind the Mask video.

2021 Solutions Celebration!

Click here for closed captions of the 2021 Solutions Celebration.

Categories
Bridges Blog Series: Resolutions for Resilience 2022

Resolutions for Resilience: Controlling the Chat in Online Classes

January always ushers in a new year, and many take the opportunity to develop New Year’s Resolutions during this month. While Resolutions can take many forms (including diet, exercise, etc.), the Free Bridges Helpdesk offers some tips for helping you get the access you need with Resolutions for Resilience.

  • Coaching Your Teachers on Accessibility
  • Controlling the Chat in Online Classes
  • Hacks for Making Screenshots/Screenshares Accessible
  • Hacks for Making Text PDFs Accessible

In this second installment of our “Resolutions for Resilience” series, we share some tips that can help you manage the information your screen reading software (screen reader) provides from the chat while in online classes.

Why It Matters

Even if your school is holding in-person classes, we have reached a point at which Zoom is a fixture as a meeting space for school, social engagements, and work. It can be so difficult to listen to your screen reader read Zoom chat messages to you out loud while you are also trying to pay attention to the teacher or presentation. It is even worse when you need to reference documents or slide presentations at the same time or take notes on the same device.

The chat can be full of valuable presentation-related information that might not be spoken aloud, or classmates could be socializing and greeting one another. Either way, you need the information. Even if the chat is purely social, who wants to miss out on talking to friends (or future friends)?

Below, we have outlined some helpful strategies for managing chat content while also balancing the need for listening to the content being presented at the class or meeting. A combination of these tips and tricks depending on the type of meeting is likely the best approach to getting everything you need.

Screen Reader Commands and Chat Hacks

These keyboard commands will help you to navigate the chat in Zoom using JAWS:

  • To disable alerts of any kind, including chat alerts and announcements of individuals entering and leaving meetings, press Windows + ALT + S.
  • Control + 1 through Control + 0 reads out the ten most recent chat messages
  • ALT + H lets you enter or exit the chat panel. Even if you disable alerts, you can feel free to check the chat panel anytime.
    • Focus automatically lands on the edit field when you enter the chat panel, so to send a message all you have to do is type the message and press Enter.
    • You can use Shift + Tab to navigate to the list of chat messages, and use your up and down arrow keys to look through the list of messages.
    • If you press Shift + Tab again, you will find a box where you can hear JAWS speak to whom your next chat message will be going; you can also change the recipient of your message in this area.
  • JAWS has a new feature that allows users to have JAWS speech come in one ear of your headphones and other computer audio come through the opposite headphone. This feature is very useful in Zoom meetings by simplifying hearing both audio inputs simultaneously. To enable this feature, press Space + Insert + V, then V, then B. You can then press the left arrow key for JAWS to speak from the left headphone and the right arrow for it to speak from the right headphone. The up arrow will restore speech to both headphones once you have finished.
  • In addition to using these keyboard commands, we also recommend using a Braille device paired with your computer to engage with the chat.

Requesting Reasonable Accommodations

Even with these commands and strategies, you may still feel as though you are not getting the same access to both the chat and the meeting itself that other participants will experience. You can always request reasonable accommodations whether you are in high school or college to ease the complications of managing audio content from multiple sources. Here are some examples of reasonable accommodations you could request:

  • Request the teacher to read aloud content written in the chat that is particularly important to the subject. This will ensure you have access to all of the notetaking opportunities as your classmates.
  • Request that all links posted in the chat be emailed out to the class. This will make things easier for not just you, but everyone else, too.
  • Ask the teacher or Zoom host to allow users to save the chat. That way, you can have a written record of the chat and can refer back to anything you may have missed. Again, this particular accommodation request will make things easier for other students as well.
  • Utilize a second device that could allow you to participate in the meeting from two devices. While not specifically a reasonable accommodation, you may want to let your teacher know that your name may be appearing twice in the participants’ list. This method could allow you to mute chat activity on one device and mute incoming audio on the other device; you could then have a device for the lecture and one for chat engagement.

Other Support

JOIN US TONIGHT! Free Student Roundtable: The Game of Life: Hacks for Financial Independence with the Bridges Helpdesk

We invite students to join us for an interactive session where we will learn about saving, spending, and benefits 101!

Managing your benefits can be confusing, and how do you sort through these enormous letters that SSA sends anyway? It is possible to save more than $2,000 while on SSI, and to have working experiences while still enjoying your SSI benefit. Want to learn how? Join the Bridges Helpdesk today, Tuesday, January 11 at 7:30 PM to learn about financial hacks to help you best manage your SSI benefits and beyond!

Tonight, Tuesday, January 11, 2022 07:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Contact us for the Zoom link!

Contact us

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.

Categories
Bridges Blog Series: Resolutions for Resilience 2022

Resolutions for Resilience: Coaching Your Teachers on Accessibility

January always ushers in a new year, and many take the opportunity to develop New Year’s Resolutions during this month. While Resolutions can take many forms (including diet, exercise, etc.), the Free Bridges Helpdesk offers some tips for helping you get the access you need with Resolutions for Resilience.  

  • Coaching Your Teachers on Accessibility
  • Controlling the Chat in Online Classes
  • Hacks for Making Screenshots/Screenshares Accessible
  • Hacks for Making Text PDFs Accessible

In this first installment of our “Resolutions for Resilience” series, we share some tips that can help sighted educators better understand how to provide blind/low vision students effective access to instruction (presentations, curriculum, documents, videos, etc.).

Am I Asking Too Much?

Probably not. In most cases, you are asking your teachers to provide on-time access to information –  something that all of the sighted students receive all the time. The problem is that many commonly used ways of sharing information are inaccessible to blind/low vision students.

In other words, the need for access is the same for all people, with and without disabilities. By focusing on this – the need for on-time and effective access to information – you can help your teachers understand the importance of making changes to ensure that you have access. After all, the information they provide is important; don’t ALL students deserve access to it?

Accessibility IS the Law

While no one wants to threaten litigation, it can be helpful to point out that both federal and Maryland law require public K-12 schools and universities to be accessible and to provide reasonable accommodations upon request. Additionally, many private schools (both K-12 and post-secondary) has similar legal obligations.

The legal obligations have been in existence for decades (and before you and many of your teachers were born), and governmental agencies continue to provide guidance about accessibility rights. Please reach out to the Free Bridges Helpdesk for more information.

Making the Ask

How and when to make the ask is a vital, and sometimes intimidating, question. In general, communication works best when you do it early and often. Reaching out to your teachers before school begins is great, and it gives them time to make changes before classes start – thus allowing both of you to focus on your classes and not on trying to get accessible materials!

Of course, you don’t always know in advance that something will have accessibility problems.

No matter what the accessibility barrier is, it is a problem that must be solved immediately. It is not your fault, and you should not be left out or punished. On the other hand, teachers and others will be more likely to help remediate accessibility problems if you follow the three Ps:

  • Polite – No matter how frustrated you may have the right to be, you have a better chance at getting being heard if you can keep calm when expressing your accessibility needs.
  • Provide solutions – Many sighted teachers (and parents) don’t know much about accessibility. If you can help them problem-solve, you are that much closer to accessibility.
  • Permit postponement – Sometimes accessibility issues are too large to be easily solved. In those cases, it is reasonable to ask that the teacher postpone the assignment/activity for everyone until an accessible solution is found and put into place. Note: it IS fair to postpone for everyone because inaccessibility is a form of discrimination and, as noted by the United Nations: “Discrimination against one is discrimination against all.” (Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)).

Providing Resources

Accessibility barriers can occur in many areas of education. Here are some resources that can help your teachers provide you access to the great instruction and information they have to offer:

Overview

The TVI Portal Maryland provides a wealth of information on many aspects of blindness/low vision.

Introduction to Accessibility

Accessibility on the TVI Portal Maryland

Documents and slide presentations

Most teachers simply don’t know HOW to make documents or slide presentations accessible for blind/low vision students. Here are more TVI Portal Maryland resources to share with your teachers. Also, please remember that the Free Bridges Helpdesk is here to support teachers as well as students and parents.

Word document Accessibility Cheat Sheet

Word document Accessibility PowerPoint Presentation

PowerPoint Accessibility Cheat Sheet (short)

PowerPoint Accessibility Cheat Sheet (long)

PowerPoint Accessibility PowerPoint Presentation

Verbal instruction

Best advice: Pretend you are on the radio. Or on the phone. Or making a podcast.

It’s simple, but this simple can make all the difference. When the speaker knows that the listener cannot necessarily see anything the speaker is doing, the speaker changes the presentation. Instead of saying, “Look at this.” “Or it was way over there.” the speaker must use descriptive language instead.

It can be hard to remember “I must use descriptive language.” It’s easy to remember: “I’m on the radio.”

Accessible Videos

As noted in “Explore the Wonders of Audio Description!” on the Bridges Blog, “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.” In other words, audio description provides ACCESS to visual information shown in a video.

A great (and free) resource for education-related videos is the Described and Captioned Media Program (DCMP). Go to the DCMP website to search for available videos and sign up for free. Your teachers can do the same, and they can even assign videos to you through DCMP.

Accessible News

Getting information about current events is often an integral part of Social Studies classes. Unfortunately, many news websites have annoying pop-ups and are difficult (if not impossible) to navigate using accessible technology. A great resource for local, state, national, and international news is NFB Newsline, a free resource that offers accessible news in multiple ways: through an iDevice (phone, pad, or pod) app, on the internet, by phone, on Amazon Alexa, via email, and more! Check out  “Get Your News On Your Own Terms with NFB Newsline® (It’s Free)” on the Bridges Blog for more information.

Accessible Books

While most teachers know which textbooks they will need for the year and can order accessible versions ahead, other supplementary reading books might be assigned late. While your teachers still should go through proper channels to get accessible books for you, make sure you have your own account with free sources of accessible books:

Maryland college students: Let your professors know about the LBPD program for college textbooks. You and your professor will still need to follow the policies of your school’s Disability Services office (D.S.S.).

Contact us

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.

top of page