Fall 2012, Newsletter
Phone: (585) 244-0477
Letter From the Editor
Welcome to Portal Tutoring's newsletter. As usual, we have a great deal to tell you, and we have some new offerings. You will read about some new developments in technology; more about Ms. Parsons' continuing education; and a few necessary announcements.
Portal Tutoring Past and Future
These past several months of 2011 and 2012 have been good ones for Portal Tutoring. We've tutored several private students in computer technology and the use of Humanware's BrailleNote. Some of these students have continued their lessons into the New Year.
In August of 2011, we updated our documentation to continue to be a private vendor for The New York State Commission for the Blind and Visually Handicapped (CBVH). This has resulted in Portal Tutoring's expansion into teaching Braille to adults. Although Braille has been in our curriculum since its inception, no one has taken advantage of this course until now. All students wishing to learn Braille are to be tutored face-to-face. Portal Tutoring has not modified its Braille curriculum to allow for distance learning of this skill, though it may do so in future. We are delighted to be able to provide this service to our clientele in the Rochester area.
Because of the expansion of our curricula, we acquired four students from CBVH who needed to learn contracted Braille in January of 2012. Two of these students have completed their courses and are now proficient Braille readers. In October, we added a fifth Braille student to our list. In addition to the Braille students, CBVH asked us to take on another student who needed training in the use of the Victor Stream and in communication skills with her laptop. This contract was completed successfully.
We have completed a summer contract with a school district for AT Training to be given to one of its students. The student needed help with his BrailleNote and his laptop. This student's school has contracted with Portal Tutoring to continue what we started in the summer throughout the coming academic year in 2013.
NVDA Screen Reader
The NVDA Screen Reader, Non-Visual Desktop Access, has been available for some years, but Portal Tutoring has not explored this free software until this year. We have done some preliminary work with this screen reader, and have found it to be a most responsive and well-designed tool for computer users. If you or someone you know has a computer and is on a tight budget, NVDA may be your best access solution. It is free, and it works well with the most commonly used computer programs for Windows. Portal Tutoring is prepared to begin offering training in this screen reader for anyone who desires it.
Do you use Skype? Are you having trouble accessing Skype's features? Then, worry no more! GW Micro, makers of the Screen reader named Window-Eyes, has created an accessible version of Skype by using Skype's tool kit for program developers. You do not need to run Window-Eyes or even Regular Skype on your computer. Simply download GW Connect from http://www.gwmicro.com, install it, sign onto Skype and create a username and password. You will be Skyping in no time. If you need help, Portal Tutoring offers a brief one-hour class in using this handy application.
Cost Of Private Tutoring Raised
As you are aware, the economy has been slow of late, and prices have risen for everything from bread to BrailleNotes. Therefore, Portal Tutoring has had to follow suit. Starting on January 1, 2012, the price for private tutoring from us is now $25.00 per hour. New private students will be charged at this new rate.
Books And Book Readers
Recently, Humanware announced their newest DAISY player, the Victor Reader Stratus-M. This is a desktop player that allows one to play CD's, thumb drives and SD cards. It is modeled on the old Victor Reader Classic Plus. The buttons on it are virtually the same, and if you are familiar with the Classic Plus, you should have no difficulty in adapting to this new player. One of the Stratus' best features is its text-to-speech voice. This is the internal voice that allows you to play e-text content. This voice is much improved over that of the Victor Reader Stream. The speaker on the Stratus is akin to the one on the NLS DTBM, so one can count on receiving excellent audio playback quality. It sells for approximately $450.00. Portal Tutoring is pleased to offer training in the use of The Victor Reader Stratus and the Victor Reader Stream, made by Humanware, as well as, the NLS DTBM.
During the past several months, Portal Tutoring has conducted group training for teachers and students in schools in New York State. These trainings were given in order to acquaint both teachers and students with the new Apex BrailleNote from Humanware and the Pac Mate from Freedom Scientific. The training sessions were successful, and Portal Tutoring looks forward to a similar opportunity in December of this year as well as during 2013.
Editorial By Ann Parsons
Since beginning my exploration into the world of teaching Braille to adults, I have become increasingly aware of the importance of Braille to those who are blind and visually impaired. As one who was born blind, I learned Braille as a child when others were learning how to read print. Therefore, my use of Braille parallels that of any child who is taught to read print in first grade. I began using it for all the things which other children use print: reading books, taking notes, writing to friends who were blind, labeling records and clothing, and on and on.
As an adult, I use Braille every single day. I use it just as any sighted person uses handwritten notation: to label everything from clothing to spices, keeping notes on students, printing material for my students to study, printing material written on the computer for better proofing, keeping addresses and phone numbers, keeping an appointment calendar and more. While I have been teaching my first student, I find myself continually saying, "When you get better at this, you will be able to…". It is true. When a person learns Braille, he or she can begin to use it in the same way that a fully sighted person uses a pen and paper.
This seems logical to most of us, but there is a growing feeling among educators and other professionals that if you use a talking computer, you have no need for Braille. As a Braille user and a professional educator, I am here to tell you that This is not so. A computer cannot go with you to the store like a hard copy grocery list. A computer cannot be attached to each item of clothing you own. A computer cannot be used to take down the occasional note or phone number you might need in a pinch. No, only Braille can do this for you. Only Braille can be used without electric power and without being inside. Smart Phones are beginning to do this, but nothing can take the place of being able to "see" the letters and numbers under your fingers and to know a document's formatting, its spacing, its spelling and syntax. I am correcting this document on my BrailleNote in Braille, as I write. nothing takes the place of being literate.
Continuing Education Opportunities
In its continuing search for materials and training opportunities to enhance the value of Portal Tutoring to its clientele, Ms. Parsons, Portal Tutoring's sole tutor and CEO participated in several webinars. Most recently, we attended a webinar given by Larry Lewis of Flying Blind. The subject of the webinar was how to link a cell phone or an Ipad to a Braille display. Other continuing education opportunities included: webinars by Accessible World, The Hadley School in Winnetka, IL, EASI, and a visit to Utica to attend the New York State Convention of ACBNY. All these opportunities were taken so that Portal Tutoring can offer, you, our students the best training possible.
We would like to thank all our patrons for using us for your training needs. We continue to serve you, our students to the best of our ability. If you have questions about anything in this newsletter, Braille or computer technology for the blind or visually impaired, don't hesitate to contact us. We'll answer your questions or find someone who can.
Unsubscribing: If you no longer wish to receive our newsletter, please contact us at the above email address or by calling us. We will immediately remove your name from our list.
Ann K. Parsons, tutor, CEO