Friday Finds

Friday Finds for June 10 2016

The start of each article is marked with an asterisk.  Using the find/replace feature of your word processor, type in the asterisk (shift plus numeral eight) then hit enter to jump between articles.

Contents

  1. Pondering questions
  2. Fact of the day
  3. Tech term
  4. Words of Wisdom:
  5. orbit reader details june 2016
  6. Two things about List Recorder
  7. How to Take Screenshots on Any Device
  8. Microsoft Product Support Lifecycle
  9. Get Classic Windows 7 Games in Windows 8 and 10 for Free
  10. Dont Throw That Out!
  11. iCanConnect
  12. Father’s Day Gift List for Your Dad Who Is Visually Impaired
  13. Olympians Without Nations
  14. stepping stone

Articles start next:

*1)  Pondering questions

Do hungry crows have ravenous appetites?

*2)  Fact of the day

What causes the dark circles uner the eyes?

ShareShareShareShareShare

It is often claimed that periorbital dark circles are caused by tiredness or working too hard or even just staying up late. While this can be true, the truth is that your genes play a huge role here. So what exactly is happening when you get dark circles under or around your eyes?

Simply put, periorbital dark circles are a result of the thin layer of skin below your eyes showing the blood vessels and the blood they contain more clearly than anywhere else on your body. (For reference, this skin around your eyelids, called periorbital skin, is on average about 0.5 mm thick compared to an average of about 2 mm thick on most of the rest of your body.)

Now, as you may or may not already know, the reason veins often look blue isn’t because the blood inside them is blue; it’s because your skin/subcutaneous tissue only lets blue/violet wavelengths of light pass through it. As a result, only blue light is reflected back and the veins look, well, bluish. (Veins often won’t appear blue if a person has darker or lighter skin. Rather, the veins tend to appear green or brown. On the other hand, people with extremely light skin, such as albinos, will typically have veins that show up as dark purple or dark red, more closely resembling the actual color of the blood running through the veins.)

http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2014/06/causes-dark-circles-eyes-sleeping-people-really-tired/

*3)  Tech term

WAHM

Meaning Work at home mom

Work at home mom

“Her husband works at the office, while she runs her own business as a WAHM.”

*4)  Words of Wisdom:

“There is a fire inside. Sit down beside it. Watch the flames, the ancient, flickering dance of yourself.” —John MacEnulty

*5)  Orbit Reader 20 Details June 2016

by Larry Skutchan

After the recent announcement and feedback during the March CSUN conference about the release of the Orbit Reader 20™, a new refreshable braille display with an SD card slot and stand-alone functionality, it is clear the device warrants some additional description. In brief, the Orbit Reader 20 combines simplicity, functionality, and connectivity in a unique and low priced package to make reading braille more practical in many situations. The Orbit Reader 20 will be manufactured by Orbit Research and sold by the American Printing House for the Blind.

Current State of Refreshable Braille Technology

Users who are blind enjoy increasingly better and less expensive speech output accessibility in mobile devices, but braille access is nearly always achieved by employing an additional external device. The device works much like a Bluetooth keyboard, except in this case, the peripheral is a refreshable braille display that sometimes includes a braille keyboard. This scenario works, but few can argue that one single unit that includes the braille components is a far superior setup. Here, the unfortunate truth of manufacturing products for a low-incidence population arises—currently, no large for-profit manufacturer can justify the low return on investment for refreshable braille technology.

The need for specialization, recognition of the importance of braille literacy, and the advancement of electronics technology was the motivation behind the production of electronic braille displays for several companies in the blindness business. Over the years, these electronic braille products evolved into three categories.

Braille Terminals—a refreshable braille device that connects to a host, with no additional functionality. It usually includes a USB and Bluetooth interface and sometimes features a braille keyboard. The user reads the braille from an app running on a phone, tablet, or computer (host) and then controls the host and/or types with the keyboard using the braille terminal.

Note Takers—works like a braille terminal and includes additional functionality, such as editing or a calendar, that is used without connecting to a host. These devices always include a braille keyboard.

PDAs—a note taker that uses a mobile operating system to provide all the services of a smartphone or tablet. Modern PDAs include Android and Windows applications. These devices could even be called braille tablets. This is the next best solution for the user desiring the ultimate experience of a single integrated unit.

One of the disadvantages of braille PDAs is the cost. While the user can obtain a well-equipped iPhone® for about $800, or even use an Amazon Fire® tablet for $50, the cost of braille PDAs is in the thousands. And while it is almost painless to spend a few hundred dollars every two or three years to upgrade to the latest device, spending thousands to keep up with braille technology hurts a lot more and is out of range for many users.

These disproportionate prices should not reflect badly on the manufacturers—it is expensive to design specialty hardware, and the traditional braille cells used to date are very expensive. Relatively low quantities for manufacturing also contributes to the problem. And there is a market for premium braille PDAs.

For most users, the note taker offers a middle-ground approach. It provides minimal, but essential, functionality in a stand-alone operation and lets the user connect to a host device for more demanding tasks, such as web browsing or streaming movies. The disadvantage is the inconvenience of having two separate devices with which to contend. However, this aspect becomes an advantage when it is time to upgrade to the next generation of phone or tablet.

Advantages of the Upcoming Orbit Reader 20

The Orbit Reader 20 was designed as a braille reading device. It falls into the note taker category. Its stand-alone capabilities include reading, writing, and file management. For anything else, the user connects to a host device that provides those services. In this usage model, the Orbit Reader 20 becomes a terminal that displays the braille for the app running on the phone, tablet, or PC. It works via Bluetooth with iOS and Android devices and through USB or Bluetooth for Windows, Mac, and any other operating system that includes a screen reader with braille support. In the USB configuration, Orbit Reader 20 supports both serial and human interface device (HID) protocols. This means, if the screen reader supports it, no driver installation is required.

When using it as a stand-alone device, Orbit Reader 20 starts as a reader displaying the content of files stored on the SD card. The interface is simple, keeping the focus on allowing the reader to scroll through the text and select other titles. The youngest readers find it easy to get the next line of braille by pressing the panning button. For more advanced users, Orbit Reader 20 provides searching, bookmark, and note taking capabilities.

In addition to its use as a reader, Orbit Reader 20 lets the user create and edit text. Make no mistake, the editor is simple and works with about 15 pages at a time. But if more complex formatting or spell check is needed, the user utilizes a word processing program, such as Microsoft Word, on the PC with Orbit Reader 20 serving as the braille terminal.

Finally, Orbit Reader includes file management capabilities as part of its stand-alone functionality. The user can rename, delete, copy, and create files and folders as needed.

Revolutionary Refreshable Braille Display

Along with these simple software features, Orbit Reader 20 boasts some noteworthy hardware. The most distinctive feature is the braille technology. Some compare it to the braille used on signage. The dots do not give when the user presses them. The dots on some braille displays using the traditional technology yield to pressure. Perceptually, this results in the sensation of pushing the dot down when the user applies deliberate force to it. The technology used in the Orbit Reader 20 does not exhibit this characteristic. Once the dot is raised, it stays raised no matter how hard the user examines it. This unique factor could have positive implications for beginning braille readers or those who suffer with some degree of neuropathy.

Development of the Orbit Reader 20

The Orbit Reader 20 was made possible by the Transforming Braille Group, LLC. Their goals for this device included increasing literacy by dramatically reducing the cost of refreshable braille technology.

In 2011, Kevin Carey, Chair of the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB), announced that RNIB would find a technology that disrupts the braille display market by radically reducing the cost of refreshable braille. He convinced 10 world-wide blindness organizations to form the Transforming Braille Group, LLC (TBG). The organizations involved in TBG are listed here:

  • American Printing House for the Blind (APH)
  • Association Valentin HauY (AVH)
  • Blind Foundation (formerly RNZFB)
  • Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB)
  • National Federation of the Blind (NFB)
  • Norwegian Association for the Blind and Partially Sighted (NABP)
  • Perkins School for the Blind (Perkins)
  • Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)
  • Sightsavers
  • Vision Australia (VA)

After a thorough examination of over 60 possible projects, TBG agreed to fund Orbit Research with $1.25 million to develop the reader for about $300 each, with a commitment of 50,000 units over a five-year period.

In March 2016, TBG and Orbit announced the successful completion of the project and revealed the prototypes at the CSUN conference.

Low-Cost Breakthrough in a Refreshable Braille Device

While no organization has yet published an end user price for the Orbit Reader 20, it is fair to expect a price around $500 for North America. TBG members can get the device for $320, but this is just for the device. Individual member organizations must package, localize, support, and distribute the device. TBG members are all non-profit organizations, so determining factors toward an end user cost depend on the cost of the following described items.

Packaging might include an SD card (possibly with some content), a USB cable, large print and braille quick start guides, an AC adapter, and a box and packaging. Some of these components vary depending on the location; for example, translation of the quick start guides into an appropriate language and provision of AC adapters compatible with local plugs. Member organizations may choose to collaborate for lower packaging and accessory prices.

Another example that could affect the end user price is the use of a software utility that allows an organization to translate the user interface into any language, thus allowing delivery of a product directly to their customers that is already configured and preloaded with content on the SD card.

Organizations may also want to create software and hardware support systems. While the device is engineered for varying climates, eventually the battery, for example, needs replacement. Currently, it is user replaceable, but some organizations may wish to consider providing services such as battery sales or installation.

Some of the most important considerations for successful integration of such a breakthrough technology are marketing, support, and education. Individual TBG members are responsible for providing information to consumers and educational and government entities about the cost and literacy advantages. They also build customer support channels and create and distribute tutorials or localized versions of the user interface and documentation.

To date, CNIB, RNIB, and APH have announced intentions to distribute the device when it becomes available in the fall of 2016. Non-TBG members will also be able to purchase the Orbit Reader 20, but they will not enjoy the $320 price. Final price and timing details are forthcoming. Orbit Reader uses common off-the-shelf parts. Most of these parts are used in millions of other consumer devices, so it is expected that the individual prices will continue to fall.

The end result of a low-cost refreshable braille display is not magic. The TBG made a commitment, identified a technology, financed it, committed to quantities, and accepted compromises to achieve this remarkable cost breakthrough. In addition to the financial and quantity commitments, the new technology and compromises made between TBG members complete the successful formula for the significant price reduction. A look at some of the compromises helps explain.

Orbit Reader 20 Features vs. Full-Featured Devices

The first difference from full-featured devices is the lack of cursor routing buttons. What that means to individual users depends on how they use the device. These buttons, which are associated with individual cells, make the interface easier on modern operating systems. The cursor routing buttons were eliminated due to limited usefulness when used as a reader and to save on cost. Currently, there are discussions taking place about the introduction of models with additional features, and cursor router buttons certainly qualify as one of the more important features being considered.

The second difference from full-featured devices is that the unit refreshes differently from previously existing technology. The refresh rate is slower, and the user can just hear the slight tap as each pin rises from left to right. However, it happens quickly, usually in about half a second for the whole line—the left side is ready almost immediately. The refresh rate could be faster with additional cost, but initial indications show that many users are satisfied with this alternate technique.

The last difference is in the size and appearance; it is not the smallest or sleekest refreshable braille device available. It is approximately 6 inches wide, 4 inches deep, and just over 1 inch tall; and it appears more utilitarian than elegant. Regardless, it looks good, is built ruggedly, and functions well. It does not come with a carrying case, but it does contain rings where a strap may be attached. Orbit Research will offer a case for purchase, and it is likely that some of the well-known case developers, such as Executive Products, will supply a carrying case.

The device is not intended to compete with high end PDAs. Its purpose is to get braille into the hands of more users. Now, parents can afford a braille reader to accompany the family tablet, libraries can reduce costs for those users that desire electronic distribution, and governments can provide inexpensive, easy to maintain devices on which to read.

For teachers of the visually impaired (TVIs) in the United States, it means that schools can provide a braille display for every student that requires one, which should be available to the student for home use for evenings and weekends. The TVI can use it to provide high-quality transcribed electronic textbooks. At school, students can use it to read textbooks, write homework assignments, take notes, and interact with the school computer. At home, they can read books and magazines, work on homework assignments, interact with their iPad, and connect it to the home computer.

Orbit Reader 20, a Breakthrough Coming This Fall

In short, the Orbit Reader 20 provides a simple, well-built, inexpensive method to offer the prospect of literacy to more people who are blind and visually impaired by dramatically reducing the cost of refreshable braille technology. It is not the sleekest, most elegant, smallest, or most feature laden device available. It is, however, an incredible value for simple, reliable, electronic braille tasks. The Transforming Braille Group is optimistic that this combination will ease the literacy crisis among blind citizens the world round.

http://www.aph.org/research/orbit-reader-20-details/

*6)  Two things about List Recorder.

The $0.99 recorder only records for about 10 seconds as a demo.

List Recorder Full, $7.99 records until you run out of memory if you want.

The development stopped because the developers partner became seriously ill and the developer has stopped working and is the caregiver now.

If anyone knows a developer who might want to take it over, they would be interested in talking with them.

Richard from the VIPhone LIst

*7)  How to Take Screenshots on Any Device (PC, Mac and Mobile Devices)

Learn how to grab screenshots in any device – Windows, OS X, iOS, Apple Watch, Android, Microsoft Surface, Windows Phone, and Linux in this helpful article.
A screenshot is capturing an image of whatever is on the screen of whatever device you’re using. With so many of us having more than one device, knowing how to take a screenshot using your particular device or operating system is useful and convenient.

I most often grab screenshots using whatever browser I’m in at the moment – there are many add-ons/extensions you can use, the ones I’ve used and like are Nimbus (my current favorite, works with Firefox, Chrome, Android, PC),

http://nimbus.everhelper.me/screenshot.php

Fireshot (works in Firefox, Chrome, Opera or IE),

http://getfireshot.com/

and Lightshot (Mac, Windows, browser add-on and online app).

http://prnt.sc/

If you want to use one of these options in Opera and it isn’t supported, check out our How to Install Chrome Extensions in Opera article.

http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/how-install-chrome-extensions-opera.htm

Complete Guide to Taking Screenshots On PC, Mac and Mobile Devices

http://www.groovypost.com/howto/complete-guide-to-taking-screenshots-on-your-device/

Need to edit those screenshots? These related articles will help out:
Best Free Digital Image Editor (Windows)

http://www.techsupportalert.com/best-free-digital-image-editor.htm

Best Free Image Editor for Mac OS (

http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/best-free-software-mac-os.htm?page=0%2C7

Best Free Image Editor for Linux

Best Free Online Image Editor

http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/best-free-online-applications-and-services.htm?page=0%2C9

Best Free Image Editor for Android

http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/best-free-image-editor-android.htm

Best Free Image Editor for iOS

http://www.techsupportalert.com/content/best-free-image-editor-ios.htm

*8)  Microsoft Product Support Lifecycle

https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/gp/lifecycle

If you’ve ever wondered how long a particular Microsoft product is supported by Microsoft, you can find the answer here. You can search by product family, alphabetically, or the name of the product. From the site: “Microsoft provides Support Lifecycle policy, giving customers consistent, transparent, and predictable timelines for which software is supported.

The Microsoft Support Lifecycle policy standardizes Microsoft product support policies for Business, Developer, and Desktop Operating System Software Products; Consumer Software and Multimedia Software Products; Hardware; and Online Services.”

*9)   Get Classic Windows 7 Games in Windows 8 and 10 for Free

Play the classic, ad free games you loved from Windows 7 (along with Mahjong Titans, Chess Titans and Purble Place from Windows Vista) on computers running Windows 8 and Windows 10. Winaero (who has quite a nice collection of useful free Windows utilities and programs, check them out) has packaged these great games into one downloadable file that will run on Windows 8 and 10. Complete directions are on the page – download and extract the Zip file to install the program, then choose any or all of these games:

Games:

  • Chess
  • FreeCell
  • Hearts
  • Mahjong
  • Minesweeper
  • Purble Place
  • Solitaire
  • Spider Solitaire

Internet Games:

  • Internet Backgammon
  • Internet Checkers
  • Internet Spades

Note: When you click on the download link, you’ll be taken to separate page to download the program. There’s a large ad on the page, with the download link (labeled “Download Windows 7 games for Windows 10”) directly below the ad.

The program file is too large for be uploaded to VirusTotal, but WOT rates the site as safe and the file scanned free of malware using multiple anti-virus programs on my Windows 8.1 system.

Download Classic Windows 7 Games for Windows 8 and 10

http://winaero.com/blog/get-windows-7-games-for-windows-10/

*10)  Don’t Throw That Out!

Ever walked into the kitchen to get that first cup of coffee only to discover someone left the ice cream on the counter all night? Or the milk? Or discovered an opened bottle of wine in the back of the fridge? And what’s with those bags of stale chips in the pantry? I don’t hate spoiled food as much as I did before I discovered so many clever ways to use up items I used to throw out.

Sour milk

It often happens in warm weather, with even a limited milk supply, that some of it gets  sour before it can be used. Don’t throw it out, even if there is only a little. Sour milk is a valuable kitchen asset! Have a clean glass to pour the remnants in, and keep it in the fridge until you have accumulated one cup. Then plan to use it as soon as it thickens, since milk becomes bitter if it stands too long. Note: Recipes using sour milk must include baking soda.

SOUR MILK BISCUITS

2 cups flour

1 tablespoon shortening

1 cup thick sour milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

Preheat oven to 400 F. Sift the flour, salt, and soda well together. Rub in the shortening with a spoon. Add the milk and stir lightly. The dough should be soft.

Drop by spoonfuls into greased muffin tins and bake in a hot oven for 15-20 minutes.

Melted ice cream

Use melted ice cream to bake a cake! Your liquid, fat and flavorings are all premeasured right in the ice cream. And if that ice cream just happens to have big chunks of chocolate, pralines, cookie dough, cherries or nuts, all the better. Your cake will be filled with all of that yummy goodness just as the ice cream was. 

MELTED ICE-CREAM CAKE

1 package (18.25 ounces) cake mix

2 cups ps melted ice cream, any flavor(s)

2 large eggs*

Preheat oven to 350 F and move the rack to the middle. Lightly mist a 12-cup Bundt or angel food cake pan with vegetable oil spray, then dust with flour. Shake out the excess flour. Place the cake mix, melted ice cream, and eggs (optional) in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute to mix.

Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes longer, scraping the sides as necessary until the batter is thick and well-blended. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with the rubber spatula.

Bake the cake until it springs back when lightly pressed with your finger and just starts to pull away from the sides of the pan, 38 to 42 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place it on a wire rack to cool for 20 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake and invert it onto a small plate or rack, then again onto a second rack so that the cake is right side up to complete cooling, 30

minutes more. Finish with a light dusting of powdered sugar or your favorite icing.

Notes: 1. You can melt the ice cream in the microwave on “Defrost.” Check and stir it every few minutes until it becomes liquid.

  1. A pint of ice cream may not produce two cups once melted because some manufacturers pump air in during the manufacturing process.
  1. In a pinch, you can leave out the eggs. I did once by accident, and my German chocolate cake mix with Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream was awesome.
  2. You can use any variety of cake mix with any combination of ice creams you might have on hand. Boring flavors will produce a bland cake. Get creative with flavors. I’ve used cake mixes with pudding, double pudding, no pudding, extra moist, ultra moist, all with good results. I’ve mixed together several flavors and brands of ice cream to come up with 2 cups and to use up those last bits covered with ice crystals hiding in the back of the freezer.

Stale chips

Chips don’t have to be stale, but if they are that’s perfectly fine for cooking.

TACO CHICKEN STRIPS

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/2 cup mayonnaise

3 tablespoons milk

1 1/4 cup crushed tortilla chips

1 tablespoon taco seasoning*

Preheat oven to 425 F. To crush the tortilla chips, place them in a resealable plastic bag. Whack them with a rolling pin and continue rolling until the chips are fine crumbs. Lightly grease a baking sheet. Cut each chicken breast unto 1/2-inch strips. In a large shallow bowl, whisk mayonnaise and milk until blended and smooth. Place crushed tortilla chips in another large shallow bowl, add taco seasoning and mix well. Dip chicken strips first in mayonnaise mixture making sure they are well coated, then into crushed tortilla chips mixture. Place on prepared baking sheet (do not overlap). Bake until just browned and chicken is cooked through, 10- 12 minutes. Serve with salsa, sour cream and guacamole. This recipe multiplies well.  *The taco seasoning mix that comes in a packet works well.

POTATO CHIP COOKIES

1 cup shortening

1 cup white sugar

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups crushed potato chips

1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, cream together the shortening, white sugar and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition, then stir in the vanilla. In another bowl combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; gradually stir into the creamed mixture and continue to mix until well incorporated. Finally, fold in the potato chips (and walnuts as desired). Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.

Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Yield: 5 dozen medium-sized cookies.

Wine

Wine gone “bad” is called wine vinegar. Use it to make vinaigrette and in recipes that call for wine vinegar.

And now for today’s Bonus Round.

Following are two more of my all-time favorite slow cooker recipes for the summer months.

My family has dined on Three Packets and a Roast so many times I couldn’t count. I’ve served this to guests both in casual as well as more formal settings. I’ve taken it to potlucks. Always this produces rave reviews. It’s all I can do to just keep my mouth shut and accept the accolades. There is no better way to make all American to-die-for pot roast that turns out perfectly, every time. You cannot screw this up and trust me I’ve had plenty of opportunities.

THREE PACKETS AND A ROAST

1 cup water

1 (.7 ounce) packet dry Italian-style salad dressing mix

1 (1 ounce) packet dry ranch dressing mix (like Hidden Valley)

1 (.75 ounce) packet dry brown gravy mix

1 (about 3 pounds give or take) beef roast (like chuck)

Whisk together the water and contents of the 3 packets of dry mix. Put the beef roast in the slow cooker. Pour sauce over the top. Cook on Low until the roast is easily pierced by a fork, 6 to 8 hours—more or less. Behold—it makes its own delicious homemade-like gravy that doesn’t taste at all like it came from a packet.

Shhhh! OK?

Now, get ready. I’m about to share the most amazing, wonderfully decadent hot-and-cold (because you are going to top this with ice cream) dessert to ever come out of a slow cooker, of all things. If this doesn’t make you the culinary hit of the season, nothing will! Trust me on that.

CHOCOLATE LAVA CAKE

Cake Batter:

1 cup flour

3/4 cup sugar

3 tablespoons cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup milk

1/3 cup butter, melted

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Topping:

1/2 cup white granulated sugar

1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1/4 cup cocoa powder

1 1/2 cups hot water

Instructions:

  1. To make cake batter, whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa powder baking powder and salt in a the bottom of your slow cooker. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients with a big spoon or (better) your fist. Pour the milk, butter and vanilla into the well. Whisk until smooth. [Note: You can do this entire step in a big bowl and then pour the prepared batter it into the slow cooker, but do you really want to dirty a bowl needlessly? Your call.]
  1. To make the topping, in a small bowl whisk together the white and brown sugars and cocoa powder until well combined. Sprinkle evenly over the batter in the slow cooker.
  2. Pour hot water over the top of the batter and topping. Do not stir. Cover and cookon High for 4 hours or until a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean with a few crumbs attached.
  1. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream, as desired, spooning the hot “lava” from the bottom of the slow cooker over the top.  Serves: 6 to 8.

Mary Hunt’s Everyday Cheapskate June 10 2016

*11)  iCanConnect: A National Program Bringing People Together through Accessible Communications Technology and Training

Paula Slotkin and Jamie Taylor

Do you, or does someone you know, have combined significant vision and hearing loss? For those who meet federal income and disability guidelines, iCanConnect provides free communication technology and training to help people to stay connected with family and friends.

iCanConnect, also known as the National Deaf-Blind Equipment Distribution Program, is mandated by the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, and is administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The FCC certifies one organization in each state to participate in iCanConnect. Paid for by the Interstate Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS) Fund, iCanConnect launched in 2013 and is currently in the pilot phase. The FCC has announced that iCanConnect will be a permanent program and has formally solicited public feedback to inform the rules the FCC is developing for the permanent program.

All state programs follow certain program rules, such as who is eligible for iCanConnect, and what kinds of equipment and software are permitted. It’s up to each state program to decide how best to serve its consumers within their allocated funds in areas such as who serves as trainers, how much training is available, and policies about how much equipment and software can be distributed and whether and how often it can be updated.

Once a participant applies and is approved for the iCanConnect program, an in-home assessment is performed to identify what type of equipment is best suited for him or her. This assessment is a critical part of the program. Key to consumers’ success is understanding their existing skill set and matching up the equipment to help them get the most out of the technology they will be using.

Following are two examples of how consumers are benefiting from being served by iCanConnect.

iCanConnect Participant Profile #1: Maryland Woman Stays lose with Friends and Family Using iCanConnect

When one of Annette Rogers’ closest friends moved to Florida a few years ago, it immediately became clear she needed better tech communication skills.

“She was computer savvy, but I was not,” said Annette, a retired nurse in Hyattsville, Maryland, who has both hearing and vision loss. Her friend, Mary, who is also deaf-blind, had helped her stay connected to the community.

“When she moved away, I started to have challenges,” Annette said. “I wouldn’t get my email. I wouldn’t find out what was going on.”

Annette was far from alone. Sending an email or chatting on the phone is challenging for many people who have significant combined vision and hearing loss and don’t have access to the right equipment and training.

Along with free communication equipment and software, iCanConnect provides training in the home, allowing participants to take full advantage of the powerful features and functionality that today’s communication technologies provide.

iCanConnect serves people from a wide range of backgrounds, including older people who have lost their sight and hearing later in life, people with Usher and CHARGE syndromes, and others with combined significant vision and hearing loss who meet federal income guidelines. The equipment provided includes smartphones, tablets, computers, screen readers, braille displays, and adaptive software.

Connecting with Friends and Family

Annette applied to the iCanConnect program and received a laptop in 2014. Her equipment, along with SARA, a text-to-speech device, allows her to check email and messages. “If it wasn’t for the iCanConnect instructor, I wouldn’t have been able to do that,” she said.

Staying in touch with her friend Mary is now easy. Annette also uses her laptop to email with her six children and grandchildren who are spread out around the country.

Thanks to iCanConnect, Annette Skypes with her five sisters in Trinidad, which she still finds amazing. “It’s a wonderful feeling. It’s like you can reach out and touch them without really touching them.”

“I want to reach as many people as possible. It keeps me happy and going all the time.”

iCanConnect Participant Profile #2: Using iCanConnect to cCommunicate with The World

Brian Coppola is a man who believes in taking action. A native of Massachusetts, the 50-year-old Methuen resident has advocated on behalf of the causes he supports by testifying to members of the state legislature, distributing petitions, and writing letters to lawmakers.

Brian has experienced limited vision and hearing since birth. As a person who is deaf-blind. Brian says advocating for himself, and not just others, is an important priority as well. “Self-advocacy is critical for people who are deaf-blind,” he says. “To help others, we have to look out for ourselves as well.”

Brian discovered iCanConnect in 2013. What attracted Brian most to the program was the new level of independence that communications technology could provide. “The shortcomings of isolation were you had to depend on other people to get out into the community,” says Brian. “It was hard to communicate with other people over the phone.”

Through iCanConnect, Brian received an iPad, a Clarity phone, and a ZoomText keyboard, as well as training support. “What I like about iCanConnect is that not only does it break the isolation, it allows a deaf-blind person to communicate more effectively and independently.” Brian says people of all backgrounds and abilities can benefit from what iCanConnect offers. “If people can actually see how a deaf-blind person can go about life through the use of assistive communications technology, they would see that a deaf-blind person can function in the community just the same as their non-deaf and blind peers.”

How to Apply to iCanConnect

If you have significant combined vision and hearing loss and meet income guidelines, you may be eligible for iCanConnect. Here’s how to apply for the program:

  • First, make sure you qualify, meaning your income meets federal income guidelines (within 400 percent of the federal poverty level) and you have significant combined vision and hearing loss. Federal income levels are listed on the iCanConnect website.
  • http://www.icanconnect.org/how-to-participate
  •  
  • You must have both a significant vision and a hearing loss, or a condition currently affecting one of the senses that is likely to result in a combined disability.
  • Contact your state iCanConnect program to learn more. You can find your contact on theiCanConnect website.
  • http://www.icanconnect.org/how-to-participate
  •  
  • They can give you an application, or you can download one from your state’s iCanConnect website page. You can also call 800-825-4595, or TTY 888-320-2656.
  • Identify a professional who can attest to your hearing and vision loss in writing. It can be an educator, healthcare provider, vision or hearing professional, speech pathologist, vocational rehabilitation counselor, and more.
  • If you receive any form of public assistance, including SSI, Medicaid, food stamps, etc., you are automatically income eligible. Otherwise, you must provide proof of household income that indicates it is within the program’s income guidelines. The information you submit is strictly treated as confidential.
  • Submit the completed application to your state iCanConnect office. Once you’re accepted, your iCanConnect representative will schedule an assessment to determine what equipment will best suit your communication preferences and distance communication goals. Then your equipment will be installed, and training will begin.

Types of Equipment and Software iCanConnect Offers

iCanConnect provides a wide range of communications technologies and software, along with in-the-home training, that makes it possible for people who are deaf-blind to connect with others.

Braille Devices

Braille equipment provided through the iCanConnect program includes a wide variety of refreshable displays and sophisticated multipurpose devices. Some can be used as stand-alone devices while others are paired with mobile devices to provide tactile access to e-mail, text messaging, and the web. To receive braille equipment, eligible consumers must be proficient in braille.

Computers

iCanConnect provides both Windows and Apple computers, including desktops and laptops, to eligible consumers who have internet access. The program can also provide large monitors if needed.

Mobile Devices

Cell phones, smartphones, tablets, and associated accessories such as keyboards and protective cases are all available through iCanConnect. The program provides the equipment, but the consumer must pay for his or her own Internet or cellular service or have?ready?access to free?Wi-Fi.

Phones

iCanConnect offers a variety of amplified speaker phones, cordless phones, and related devices that connect to the landline telephone service. An eligible consumer must have telephone service to be considered for this type of equipment.

Signalers

Audible, visual, and vibrating signalers provided by iCanConnect to alert the user to a phone ringing, e-mails, texts and other types of distance communications.

Software

iCanConnect provides screen reader and screen magnifier software programs. A screen reader can serve as an interface between a computer and a braille display, and for those with some usable hearing, it also provides synthesized speech output of what is on the computer screen.

Learn More about iCanConnect

To learn more about the iCanConnect program and find your state program, visit the iCanConnect website

http://www.icanconnect.org/how-to-participate

 

About Patty L. Fletcher

Patty L. Fletcher lives in Kingsport Tennessee where she works full time as a Writer with the goal of bridging the great chasm which separates the disAbled from the non-disAbled. And as a Social Media Promotional Assistant. She is the owner and creator of Tell-It-To-The-World Marketing (Author, Blogger Business Assist), and is the published author of two books, Campbell’s Rambles: How a Seeing Eye Dog Retrieved My Life and Bubba Tails From the Puppy Nursery At The Seeing Eye: Volume One. She can also be found in two anthologies which are, December Awethology Light And A Treasure Chest of Children’s Tales. She is now working on her third book which is to be a memoir trilogy called, ‘Pathway To Freedom: Broken and Healed’.
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