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Accessible Assistive Technology Resources Bridges Blog Educational Resources Series: Jumping Into January 2023

Jumping Into January

Technology and Tools Available for Free at APH!

2022 is over, and it’s time to jump into 2023! Join us as we explore revamped and new resources to help you on your Transition journey – through school and beyond!

  • January 3: The Bridges Helpdesk Returns and is Growing!
  • January 10: JAWS Screen Reading Software Offers Even More in 2023!
  • January 17: Resources from the Maryland Library for the Blind!
  • January 24: Technology and Tools Available for Free at APH!
  • January 31: Changes to AIRA’s On-Demand Visual Interpretation Services

In this third installment of our “Jumping Into January” series, we highlight some of the great resources available from the Maryland Library for the Blind and Print Disabled (LBPD)!

What makes these things free?

These materials are free to your school district through Federal Quota funds. Federal Quota is a program to which Congress makes an annual allocation of funds to support blind and low vision students. These funds are distributed through each state, and each state has one or more officials in charge of purchasing materials for eligible students.

The Federal Quota program is great, but it is limited. Quota funds may only be spent at the American Printing House for the Blind (APH). Quota funds are also somewhat limited, especially given the expenses of textbooks, tools, and technology available these days.

Quota funds are limited, but they are still quite useful. They can be a helpful means of encouraging school officials, including regular education teachers, to be more open to incorporating accessible materials in their classrooms. Also, for items that are more specific to one grade level, school districts can borrow materials from each other or from the state.

Am I limited to Federal Quota funds?

No. APH accepts non-Quota funds, and anyone can self-pay for APH items. The Federal Quota program is an extra source of funding for blind/low vision students.

The key to obtaining tools or technology (from anywhere) is to demonstrate your need for these items. This need could be curriculum-related (sighted students have pictures, you deserve high-quality tactile graphics), materials to help build spatial concepts using tactile materials, and access-related (accessible textbooks and accessible manipulatives). Additionally, APH offers disability-related tools including:

Please note that these materials are NOT limited to use at school. In fact, it may be entirely appropriate to have some materials, like a braille embosser, at one’s home. The key is to identify what you need, why you need it, and then advocate effectively for it.

Reach out to us at the Bridges Helpdesk anytime, and we’ll be happy to help you identify tools that you need for access and success. We’re also eager to help you make a plan to request and, if needed, advocate for these vital materials.

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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Accessible Assistive Technology Resources Bridges Blog Educational Resources Information Resources Series: Jumping Into January 2023

Jumping Into January

Resources from the Maryland Library for the Blind!2022 is over, and it’s time to jump into 2023! Join us as we explore revamped and new resources to help you on your Transition journey – through school and beyond!

  • January 3: The Bridges Helpdesk Returns and is Growing!
  • January 10: JAWS Screen Reading Software Offers Even More in 2023!
  • January 17: Resources from the Maryland Library for the Blind!
  • January 24: Technology and Tools Available for Free at APH!
  • January 31: Changes to AIRA’s On-Demand Visual Interpretation Services

In this third installment of our “Jumping Into January” series, we highlight some of the great resources available from the Maryland Library for the Blind and Print Disabled (LBPD)!

Tell Me About the Maryland Library for the Blind and Print Disabled

Eligibility

“Any resident of Maryland who cannot read or use regular print materials as a result of temporary or permanent visual or physical limitations may receive service through LBPD. This includes those who are blind, have a visual disability, or have a physical disability that prevents reading.” From LBPD Frequently Asked Questions web page.

Cost

If you are eligible for LBPD services, you will receive them at no cost. There is NO CHARGE for materials, tools, and services from the Maryland LBPD.

What Resources MdLPBPD Are Available?

Materials

  • Books
  • Magazines

Formats

  • Audio (if needed, the LBPD will provide a digital talking book player for your use)
  • Hard copy braille
  • Hard copy large print
  • Electronic braille
  • BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download)

EBraille reader

Yes, you can request a 20-cell refreshable braille display from LBPD, and it will be sent at no cost to you. While it is technically a loaner device, you are in charge of it, and you do not need to return it over holiday breaks, the summer, or upon graduation. This is a big, big thing!

Now, please note that the device is a READING device; it is not a full notetaker. Nevertheless, you may directly download both BARD and NFB-Newsline resources to the device, and you can pair it to your computer or iDevice and use screen reading software (JAWS, NVDA, VoiceOver) to use it as both a refreshable braille display and as a braille keyboard.

Please contact the Bridges Helpdesk for more information. We are excited to connect you to this terrific resource!

College textbooks

Through its Maryland Accessible Textbooks (MAT) program, the LBPD provides eligible LBPD patrons in two- or four-year colleges electronic files to access their college textbooks. This service is available at no cost, but the student must first purchase a print version of the textbook (just as sighted college students do). Please note that you may still request accessible textbooks (including hard copies and tactile graphics) from your school’s disabilities services office. The MAT program simply provides an additional option for you, and it might be quicker than going through your college.

And even more!

The LBPD has so many offerings, we cannot possibly list them all here. Please contact the Bridges Helpdesk, and we will help you find the resources you need: at LBPD and beyond!

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:

Voice mail: Call (443) 320-4003, leave a voice mail message, and we will return your call

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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Accessible Assistive Technology Resources Bridges Blog Independent Living Resources Series: Jumping Into January 2023

Jumping Into January

JAWS Screen Reading Software Offers Even More in 2023!

2022 is over, and it’s time to jump into 2023! Join us as we explore revamped and new resources to help you on your Transition journey – through school and beyond!

In this second installment of our “Jumping Into January” series, we share new possibilities with the popular screen reading software, JAWS (as well as a way to snag an annual license at a great price).

What’s New with JAWS?

Smart Glance

As you probably know, developers of web pages often use text effects, like enlarged text, different kinds of fonts, colors, etc., to draw visual attention to certain parts of the web page. Unfortunately, those developers do not always add the code needed to make these visual changes accessible to users of screen reading software.

Smart Glance helps give you some of that otherwise inaccessible information. When you activate it, the “new Smart Glance feature analyzes the page and ranks textual content in reverse order based upon the infrequency of its color, text attribute or font usage on the page. Colors, fonts, or attributes used least will rank highest as potential points of interest, referred to as glance highlights.” Quotation from Freedom Scientific’s What’s New in JAWS 2023 Screen Reading Software web page.

More from Freedom Scientific’s What’s New in JAWS 2023 Screen Reading Software web page:

Please also note: “In Adobe Acrobat, we discovered that the JAWS Smart Glance feature was causing longer than usual load times for larger PDF documents. To resolve this issue, we have turned off Smart Glance only in Adobe. Note that if you press Y or SHIFT+Y in Adobe, JAWS still announces “there are no glance highlights on this page.””

Additional JAWS updates

On the What’s New in JAWS 2023 Screen Reading Software page, check out the following topics heading level 3.

On the What’s New in JAWS 2023 Screen Reading Software page, check out “Enhancements in JAWS 2023.2212.23,” a heading, level 2.

What about ZoomText?

As you might know, Freedom Scientific, the maker of JAWS, also produces the powerful screen magnification software called ZoomText. Not surprisingly, the dedicated and talented staff at Freedom Scientific have updated ZoomText as well.

Tethered View in ZoomText and Fusion

Tethered View allows you to keep access to important tools while enlarging another portion of the screen. It “opens a new window inside the magnified area that brings the activity into view. Tethered View currently supports the Windows Start menu search, Excel formula bar, Word Comments pane, and links list on a web page (Fusion only).” Quotation from Freedom Scientific’s What’s New in ZoomText 2023 Magnifier/Reader web page.

Early Adopter Program

The Early Adopter Program empowers you to, essentially, be a beta tester for upcoming software. It “lets you preview new and updated product features that are in development. As we gradually introduce features, you can evaluate them and provide feedback that will help us make improvements before the final release. The Freeze View Update is our first feature available for evaluation using the Early Adopter Program. It’s an update to the existing Freeze View in ZoomText and Fusion, that provides you with additional functionality.” One example is “When Freeze View is activated using the Early Adopter Program, you can create and display up to four Freeze Views simultaneously.” Quotations from Freedom Scientific’s What’s New in ZoomText 2023 Magnifier/Reader web page.

Additional ZoomText updates

On the What’s New in ZoomText 2023 Magnifier/Reader web page, check out “Other Changes,” a heading, level 3.

Want Both JAWS and ZoomText? Use Fusion!

As noted above, JAWS is a powerful screen reader, and ZoomText screen magnification software gives you more choices in how to visually navigate using your computer. But you don’t have to choose only one. If you would benefit from both screen reading and screen magnification, you can get features of both JAWS and ZoomText in Fusion. Check out Fusion updates on the What’s New in Fusion 2023 web page.

Tell Me about some Good Prices

Sponsored licenses

Certain universities have multi-user licenses for JAWS, ZoomText, and Fusion. As a result, their current students, staff, and faculty are entitled to free annual home licenses of one of these software choices. To find out if you are eligible, enter your email at the Is my email eligible to download a license? web page.

American Printing House for the Blind

Each year, the U.S. government provides money to each state that can only be spent at the American Printing House for the Blind. These “federal quota” funds can be spent on Freedom Scientific software. To find out more, check out APH’s JAWS – Zoom Text-Fusion Suite (Freedom Scientific Software Suite) web page. Please feel free to contact the Bridges Helpdesk for more information.

NOPBC membership

Freedom Scientific also offers a free annual home license for any one of its software solutions for members of the National Organization of Parents of Blind Children (NOPBC). NOPBC membership cost $15 while full-price annual licenses for JAWS, ZoomText, or Fusion cost $95, $85, or $170, respectively. Check out NOPBC’s Become a Member web page for more details, and reach out to the Bridges Helpdesk with any questions.

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:

Voice mail: Call (443) 320-4003, leave a voice mail message, and we will return your call

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
Advocacy Resources Bridges Blog Information Resources Series: Jumping Into January 2023

Jumping Into January

The Bridges Helpdesk Returns and is Growing!

2022 is over, and it’s time to jump into 2023! Join us as we explore revamped and new resources to help you on your Transition journey – through school and beyond!

  • January 3: The Bridges Helpdesk Returns and is Growing!
  • January 10: JAWS Screen Reading Software Offers Even More in 2023!
  • January 17: Resources from the Maryland Library for the Blind!
  • January 24: Technology and Tools Available for Free at APH!
  • January 31: Changes to AIRA’s On-Demand Visual Interpretation Services

In this first installment of our “Jumping Into January” series, we share updates about us, the Free Bridges Helpdesk.

Where Have We Been?

In August 2022, our grant funding was put on hold. As a result, we were forced to temporarily suspend our operations.

Now, we are back and so eager to work with you! Please reach out to us anytime!

What is Staying the Same?

The Bridges Helpdesk provides ready access to accurate and up-to-date information tailored to the needs of Maryland blind/low vision transition-age youth, their families, their educators and service providers, and their community allies. We still provide individual support as well as relevant resources and guidance to help you decide which bridges you need and how you want to build them.

We also still offer dedicated blind adults and blindness education experts who are at your service. We remain prepared to answer a wide variety of questions and are eager to invest the time to ensure that you get thorough and helpful answers.

And, as evidenced by this post, Transition Tip Tuesdays are back!

What is Different?

We are growing and transforming into a “technical assistance center.” Technical Assistance Centers provide high-quality and directed information and support to help stakeholders solve problems and grow in understanding and their abilities to address future obstacles. In addition to the Bridges Helpdesk and Transition Tip Tuesdays, we are developing a searchable and accessible Maryland Bridges Technical Assistance Center Resource Library. We will also be providing administrative support to the Maryland Blind/Low Vision Steering Committee, a group comprising national advisors, state and local stakeholders and service providers (representation from each LEA/PA) in the field of blind/low vision education.

Our Bridges Helpdesk represents an important area of technical assistance: intensive, sustained TA support. Transition Tip Tuesdays. Our upcoming searchable and accessible Bridges Resource Library provide universal, general TA support for blind/low vision transition-age youth and their support systems. Our provision of administrative support to the Maryland Blind/Low Vision Steering Committee represents targeted and specialized TA support to this group of educators and service providers of Maryland’s blind/low vision transition-age youth.

What Does This Mean?

Our growth from a Helpdesk to a Technical Assistance Center means we can serve our existing stakeholders (Maryland’s blind/low vision transition-age youth, their families, their educators and service providers, and their community allies) better and that we can reach out to even more stakeholders.

In other words, you can still rely on the Helpdesk’s prompt and thorough responses to inquiries and, once the Resource Library goes live, all stakeholders will have a one-stop-shop for resources, information, and support.

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:

Voice mail: Call (443) 320-4003, leave a voice mail message, and we will return your call

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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Advocacy Resources Bridges Blog Employment Resources Independent Living Resources Information Resources Recreation Resources Series: Blind/Low Vision Consumer Groups, May 2022

Blind/Low Vision Consumer Groups — Students in the NFB and the ACB

With summer nearly upon us, we invite you to join us as we explore the two largest blindness/low vision groups in the United States throughout the month of May. Regardless of whether you plan to participate in a convention this summer, we will cover the ins and outs of these organizations and how they can provide support to transition-age students.

In this fourth installment of our organization exploration, we hear from student leaders in each consumer group.

Maryland Association of Blind Students

Qualik Ford serves as president of the Maryland Association of Blind Students. In this interview, he shares information about what the Maryland Association of Blind Students does and how to contact them.

American Council of Blind Students

Aaron Espinoza serves as president of the American Council of Blind Students. In this interview, he shares information about what the American Council of Blind Students does and how to contact them.

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.