Yes You Can Can

Sunday night, I decided to rid myself of the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) peaches camped out in the fridge and make some jam.  To make it more fun, I decided to have the kids help me.  Yes, I had my 5-year old child with a vision impairment and my almost-three-year-old help me can.  You know what?  You, and your VI kiddo, can too.

First, our recipe:  Ginger-Peach Jam from Allrecipes.com.  You can get the recipe we used here:  http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Ginger-Peach-Jam/Detail.aspx?event8=1&prop24=SR_Thumb&e11=ginger%20peach&e8=Quick%20Search&event10=1&e7=Home%20Page&soid=sr_results_p1i1

Next, some additional tools:

1)  A cutting board for each helper.

A blunt serrated knife with an orange handle lays across a white cutting board with a grey border.

One of our Safe Cutters atop a peachy cutting board.

2)  A knife for each helper.   Whilst fundraising for Trolley Run, I bought two “My Safe Cutters” from Pampered Chef for the kids.  (You can buy one here:  http://www.pamperedchef.com/ordering/prod_details.tpc?prodId=9761&words=kid)  This was our first real test of the product, and I have to say, it was about perfect.  The tip is rounded, so they couldn’t stab themselves.  It’s a serrated blade that works to saw through items, but didn’t cut straight down quickly and easily like my paring knife.  In short, it was the perfect tool for my two little helpers to get to cut up some peaches and develop manual dexterity and cutting skills.

3.  A hot water bath canner with a can lifter, or, if you’re feeling daring, any pot that will allow you to put your jars in and have 2″ of boiling water above their lids.  (Seriously–you can use a dutch oven if you want.  A canner’s just more convenient.)

4.  A small sauce pan to boil your lids in.  (The lids have to be hot.  The rings don’t.)

5.  A lid lifter.  (You don’t want to burn yourself getting the lids out.)  Mine is a cool magnetic tool that Efrit picked up for me for about $2 at O’Reilly’s Auto Parts.  You can pay about $20 for one that’s marked for canning at a specialty store if you want.

6.  A funnel.  Not really necessary, but it makes filling small-mouth jam jars easier.  Mine’s bright yellow and came from O’Reilly’s.

7.  Tongs to lift your jars out of the canner to fill them (the jars need to be hot before they’re filled).  I find my metal salad tongs work great, but you can buy a specialty tool for this too if you want.

8.  Paper towels to wipe the rims (you want there to be a good seal between the lid and the jar, and jam hampers that if you’ve been messy).

9.  Hot pads.

10.  A cloth to set your freshly-canned jam on.

11.  A ladle or big spoon of some sort to spoon the jam into the jars.

12.  About 8 8oz jars.  Ball’s are lovely.

Finally, our results:

I think just about anyone can enjoy hot-water-bath canning, regardless of how well they see.  It’s a matter of figuring out what works for you and adapting accordingly.  I did the bulk of the cooking for this recipe:  the crystalized ginger is tough to cut, and there’s no way I’m letting kids as small as mine near the cooktop when it’s got three burners blazing and three pots boiling.  Still, as they get older, if they’re interested, I’ll let them get more involved in the process. Someday, Peanut is going to need to be able to feed himself, and if he wants to feed himself with home-canned goodness, more power to him.  We’ll just need to figure out how to adapt it along the way.

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An Adaptable Toy: Melissa & Doug Sound Puzzle

imageWe are big Melissa & Doug fans here at Casa de Phouka.  The toys are well-made and durable; they also tend to be made of wood, which is our preference in a plastic-filled world.  Their toys remind me of the ones I grew up with, 30-odd years ago, that encouraged me to use my imagination and were designed to last a lifetime.

While birthday-gift hunting for one of Peanut’s friends, we discovered that Melissa & Doug make Sound Puzzles.  These puzzles are designed so that when the right piece is placed in the right slot, it makes a noise.  I thought this would be an excellent toy for a burgeoning braille reader:  with the addition of a few braille labels, Peanut’s friend could match the name of an animal with the sound it makes and get practice with manipulatives to boot!

This was one of the quickest braille jobs I’ve done:  all I did was braille the name of the animal on a sheet of sticky braille paper, then cut and stick the label on the critter.  If you wanted to reinforce the braille, you could make two sets of labels:  one for the puzzle piece, and one for the slot it goes in.  With about 20 minutes’ work and two AAA batteries, you can have a fun, noisy toy for your beginning braille reader.

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CANnect

From the mailbag:

Greetings

CANnect is a consortium of agencies and schools whose mission is to create leading edge, user-friendly and accessible online educational opportunities, learning resources and life skills training for persons who are blind and/or visually impaired, for professionals who serve them and for their families. www.cannect.org

CANnect has designed and implemented a Portal: Course Catalogue through which users are able to access existing English language online accessible courses.  We are working toward the goal of making CANnect THE one stop shopping site, like Expedia, Orbitz or Travelocity in the airline industry.  Members are now in the process of uploading their accessible online courses, videos and webinars to CANnect’s Portal

We invite you to join our efforts by agreeing to post your own accessible online course to CANnect’s Portal Course Catalogue. .  Let’s make courses more accessible to blind persons and their families the world over.  Together we can do it.  If you are visually impaired or are a teacher of the visually impaired, take a look at the courses to see if any of our accessible online course suits your needs.    Questions? Rachel.rosenbaum@cannect.org  webmaster@cannect.org or rachel.e.rosenbaum@gmail.com 1-617-244-8934

We look forward to hearing from you.Â

NOTE CANnect is spelled with an A not an O.Â

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Adventures in Reading: Mighty Dads

imageOn a recent library trip, we found a wonderful, high-contrast story celebrating dads and their little guys or gals:  Mighty Dads, by Joan Holub, pictures by James Dean.  If your child loves Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site, he or she will probably enjoy Mighty Dads.  If your child has a vision impairment, Mighty Dads may the more popular pick:  although the story is simpler, the pictures are much higher contrast, and thereby easier to see.

imageEach pair of pages features a big construction machine and its mini me child:  dump trucks, excavators, bulldozers, long-arm cranes, boom trucks, cement mixers, backhoes, graders, steamrollers and forklifts.  Aside from the last two pages where all of the big machines and their kids get together, the illustrations are simple and high contrast.  Each dad in the story works with his kid at a task, like digging a trench or knocking down a building, and the dads help their kids succeed.  It’s a sweet, simple story that both Peanut and Sprout love–and Peanut, even with his vision impairment, is able to enjoy both the pictures of the big machines and their smaller children.

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Adventures in Reading: Here We Go!

Eric Carle's Here We Go!

Eric Carle’s Here We Go!

It may go without saying, but I’m a huge fan of Eric Carle.  Even before I sought out children’s books with brightly colored, high-contrast illustrations, Carle’s tissue-paper creations had a warm place in my heart.  I grew up with The Very Hungry Caterpillar, and I’ve loved reading Carle’s books to my kids.

Peanut spotted Here We Go! while we were looking for gifts for a recent birthday party.  This book is perfect for adaptation:  it has bright, high-contrast illustrations.  It’s a board book, so it’s nice and sturdy.  Best of all, however, is that it comes with its own manipulatives and sound box:  the book itself is about different machines that go, like planes, trains and automobiles.  The bottom is a steering wheel and sound box–every button or indentation on the steering panel makes another fabulous noise that goes along with the illustrations in the book.

imageThis book was a quick braille job–it may have taken me 30 minutes at most.  I also brailled the two spots on the steering panel that included letters–I believe they were RPM and WEGO FM (these were a tight fit).  The horn works, and each of the indented spots in the panel makes a different noise when pressed.

Here We Go!  is a fun read.  It has bright, high-contrast pictures and a great noisy toy attached.   This is a great book to add to your library–and a good one to practice on if you’re making your own twin-vision books at home.

 

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Kaleidoscope

Location:  2500 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108 (It’s by Crown Center, and you can generally get there through the sky walks)

Cost:  FREE!

Web Site: http://www.hallmarkkaleidoscope.com/

If you’re looking for something to do on a dreary afternoon, you can’t go wrong with Kaleidoscope.  Kaleidoscope is a children’s art center that is provided by Hallmark as a community service, and it is awesome.  It’s totally free, but you do need to get tickets to get in; check http://www.hallmarkkaleidoscope.com/visitor-info/ for details.  I’ve had times where I was able to walk right up and get tickets on the fly; other times, we’ve had to wait or had to go home disappointed.  If you’re coming from out of town or making a special trip, definitely check their Web site and get there early to get your spots.

When you enter Kaleidoscope, you enter a brightly colored wonderland of hands-on activities.  There are sound walls and reading nooks and all sorts of art just waiting to happen.  I think it’s a bit overwhelming, but my kids have both loved it every time we’ve been there.  You may need to be very hands-on with your children, but your kids can have a great time in Kaleidoscope regardless of how well they see:  Peanut has been to Kaleidoscope both with his parents for Family Art Sessions and for a field trip with his CCVI classmates, and all visits have been successful.  His only lamentations are saved for when it’s time to go.

The art supplies available in Kalidoscope vary by visit; you never know exactly what you’re going to find.  On our last trip, the kids painted paper butterflies that had holes punched in them so you could hang them to make them fly and decorated and cut their own puzzles.  You will definitely find Crayola products, given that Crayola is owned by Hallmark; we’ve found everything from crayons to stamp pads on our visits.

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Survey: Environmental Cues

From the mailbag:

My name is Alex Cohen and I am a blind doctoral student in marketing at 
Drexel University.  My research focuses primarily on creating a more 
inclusive marketplace for the disabled community, specifically for the 
visually impaired.  The purpose of this survey is to explore how retail 
stores effectively use their environments or atmospherics to provide 
information to customers, satisfy them, make them repurchasers, and refer 
other customers.  Additionally, we want to find out whether the use of these 
environmental cues has a greater impact for the visually impaired customers 
leading to a  more inclusive and satisfying shopping experience. 
 
   I have tested the questionnaire and it should work well with JAWS and any 
other screen-reading software.  The questions are presented in dropdown 
format for a more convenient survey taking experience, and it should take 
less than 10 minutes to complete. Although I do not have much in the way of 
funding, I will be donating $4.00 to the NFB for each fully completed 
survey. I also welcome any comments as to how I may make my questionnaires 
more accessible in the future. 
 
I greatly appreciate your kind assistance. The below link will take you 
directly to the survey. 
http://drexel.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_3vM4aAbF5idCbRj 
 
Thank you very much! 
 
Alex Cohen 
 
 
Alex H. Cohen 
Doctoral Student 
Department of Marketing 
LeBow College of Business
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Results-Driven Accountability

This is from my mailbag, but it’s something I’m excited about:  many of us have been frustrated by the way IDEA plays out in our childrens’ IEPs.  The differences between the spirit of the law and how its experienced by children with disabilities and their parents/guardians/advocates are staggering.  This new framework helps move things back to the spirit of helping each child reach his or her maximum potential:  as the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network states, “for the first time, states will now be held accountable for the educational outcomes of students with disabilities, rather than simply meeting compliance indicators.”  This is huge:  it means that they are accountable for results, and may mean they’re more likely to listen when a parent argues for the option that’s been proven to be efficacious versus the district’s pleading, “don’t you think we deserve a chance to try?”

(And yes, it’s been three years, and I’m still bitter.)

***

Last week, the US Department of Education announced a new accountability framework for state compliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).  This new accountability framework, entitled Results-Driven Accountability, includes for the first time the use of independent outcome data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and other outcome measures to evaluate state compliance with IDEA and the effectiveness of special education services. In addition, the Department has announced a $50 million Technical Assistance Center on Systemic Improvement  to provide necessary assistance and intervention for states.  For the first time, states will now be held accountable for the educational outcomes of students with disabilities, rather than simply meeting compliance indicators.

The Autistic Self Advocacy Network applauds the US Department of Education for giving serious consideration toward the achievement gap facing students with disabilities and putting together this system of accountability to help promote educational success. We strongly urge the Department to continue to utilize independent outcome data from NAEP and other relevant data sources to hold states accountable for the educational achievement of students with disabilities. To quote US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, “Every child, regardless of income, race, background, or disability can succeed if provided the opportunity to learn.”

It is the hope of ASAN that new regulations like this will continue to improve the education and lives of people with disabilities.   Advocates should look at their state’s performance in the Results Driven Accountability framework and utilize the Department’s assessment and the accompanying data to target advocacy around improving educational outcomes for students with disabilities in their state. State determinations are available below, and the Department’s data on educational achievement, inclusion and post-school outcomes is available on a state by state basis: http://www2.ed.gov/fund/data/report/idea/partbspap/allyears.html

[Map of State Determinations under Results Driven Accountability]

Meets Requirements Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Federated States of Micronesia, Marshall Islands, Palau

Needs Assistance Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, West Virginia, American Samoa, Commonwealth of Northern Marianas, Guam, Puerto Rico

Needs Intervention California, Delaware, District of Columbia, Texas, Bureau of Indian Education, Virgin Islands Sources: IDEA Part B Annual Performance Report Compliance Data and Results Data, including EDFacts (2012-13 School Year) and National ssessment of Educational Progress (2013 NAEP Results)

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Summer Music Academy for B/VI Students

From the mailbag:

From: LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired
Sent: Friday, June 20, 2014 9:50 AM
Subject: Spaces Still Open for Intensive Blind Music Academy at Enchanted Hills

Enchanted Hills Camp in Napa is offering a brand new Music Academy for blind and visually impaired musicians. The Academy is open to blind musicians ages 14 to 25. The session is led by Dancing Dots founder Bill McCann.

If you are a serious blind musician or are thinking of entering the profession, this academy will introduce you to new ways you can write down your own music, read the works of others, and gain the capacity necessary to compete for and win employment in the music field. Session runs from August 3 through August 9, 2014.

Find out more about our Music Academy at http://bit.ly/musicacademyatehc.

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Scholarship Opportunity in Virginia

From the mailbag:

Fellow Federationist, 
 
I am pleased to announce The National Federation of the Blind of 
Virginia (NFBV) will once again award up to three James F. Nelson, Jr. 
scholarships in the amount of $1,500 at the organization's annual 
state convention to be held at the Crowne Plaza Hampton Marina, 
located at 707 Settlers Landing Road, Hampton, Virginia 23669. I have 
attached the application form so that you can easily promote this 
fabulous program to any blind college student who is either a resident 
of Virginia or a college student attending a college or university 
here in the Commonwealth. 
 
The National Federation of the Blind of Virginia is an organization 
dedicated to creating equality, opportunity, and security for all 
blind people. To that end, winners of NFBV James F. Nelson, Jr. 
scholarships need not be members of the National Federation of the 
Blind of Virginia. The Committee will consider applicants for all 
eligible scholarships with one application. Individuals who have 
applied in previous years are encouraged to apply again. 
 
The Scholarship Committee, consisting of successful blind college 
graduates, will review all applications and select the scholarship 
recipients. The Committee will notify finalists by telephone on or 
before October 7, 2014. All decisions of the Scholarship Committee are 
final. 
	 
To be eligible for these awards, each applicant must: 
 
*	Be legally blind; 
*	Be a resident of the Commonwealth of Virginia or be attending school 
in the commonwealth; 
*	Be pursuing--or planning to pursue--a full-time, postsecondary course 
of study in the 2014 - 2015 academic year; and 
*	Participate in the entire NFBV state convention and in all scheduled 
scholarship program activities to be held November 7 - 9, 2014 in 
Hampton, Virginia. 
 
Deadline: The scholarship chairwoman must receive all documentation on 
or before September 25, 2014. 
 
If you have additional questions, please contact the scholarship 
chair, Jennifer Kennedy at msjenniferkennedy@gmail.com or by telephone 
at 330-465-6245. 
 
Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. 
 
Jennifer M. Kennedy, MA, NOMC 
National Federation of the Blind of Virginia, Richmond Chapter President 
Phone: 330-465-6245 
Email: msjenniferkennedy@gmail.com 
 
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