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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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:

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 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. 
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:

[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

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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 
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 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 
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New Publication: ­The ABCs of UEB ­Available on BANA Website

From the mailbag:

Press Release
June 2014
For Immediate Release

CONTACT: Frances Mary D’Andrea, Chair
Braille Authority of North America
Phone: 412-521-5797

New Publication­The ABCs of UEB­Available on BANA Website

The Braille Authority of North America (BANA) is pleased to share a significant new publication­The ABCs of UEB­authored by Constance Risjord. This publication outlines the major differences between English Braille, American Edition (EBAE) and Unified English Braille (UEB). Although this is not a comprehensive instruction manual, it provides examples and practice exercises that allow people who already know EBAE to quickly build on their knowledge of braille to understand UEB. This is an extremely valuable resource that will help braille readers, transcribers, teachers, and families make the transition to UEB.
BANA sincerely appreciates the work of Constance Risjord who volunteered to design and create this valuable project. We recognize and thank her for the contribution of her time, energy, and expertise.
The ABCs of UEB is available in PDF, BRF, and HTML formats on the BANA website at
NOTE: This press release is available in HTML on the BANA website at
For additional resource information, visit
You can follow the work of BANA by signing up for BANA-Announce, a one-way email list that disseminates news and information. To join this list, send a blank email message to and follow the directions in the confirmation email that will be sent in response. You can also follow BANA on Facebook and Twitter!
The Board of BANA consists of appointed representatives from seventeen member organizations of braille producers, transcribers, teachers, and consumers.
The mission of the Braille Authority of North America is to assure literacy for tactile readers through the standardization of braille and/or tactile graphics.

The purpose of BANA is to promote and to facilitate the uses, teaching, and production of braille. Pursuant to this purpose, BANA will promulgate rules, make interpretations, and render opinions pertaining to braille codes and guidelines for the provisions of literary and technical materials and related forms and formats of embossed materials now in existence or to be developed in the future for the use of blind persons in North America. When appropriate, BANA shall accomplish these activities in international collaboration with countries using English braille. In exercising its function and authority, BANA shall consider the effects of its decisions on other existing braille codes and guidelines, forms and formats; ease of production by various methods; and acceptability to readers.

Mary Nelle McLennan, M.A.

American Printing House for the Blind (APH)
APH Representatiave to Braille Authority of North America
Vice Chair, Braille Authority of North America

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Opportunity in Texas: Assistant Commissioner for Blind Services Position Announcement

From the mailbag:

Barbara Madrigal, Assistant Commissioner for the Division for Blind Services is retiring in September after a distinguished 35 year career.  As you can imagine she will be tough act to follow!  However, we are going to do our best to find the right person for this critical job in our agency.  I would like to request that you share this announcement with the NCSAB members, I know there is a great person out there just waiting for an opportunity to come to Texas, where our work makes a difference in the lives of our consumers.


Thanks in advance for your assistance and let me know if you have any questions.


Have a great day!


Veronda L. Durden, M.S.| Commissioner

4800 N. Lamar Blvd. | Austin, Texas 78756

Office: 512.377.0600 Fax: 512-377.0682|

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Celebrate With Seedlings In July!

From the mailbag:

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We are celebrating 30 years of service by giving you a gift: 30% off all of our braille books during the month of July!

Thirty years ago, Seedlings Braille Books for Children was born in the basement of my home in Detroit. With the help of hundreds of donors and volunteers, we have been able to make and distribute over 400,000 braille books to children across the country and around the world!

We think those are great reasons for a celebration, and what better way to celebrate than by giving you the chance to order more books? So even though our books are always on sale (they are always sold for a fraction of what it costs us to make them), we decided to help you join in our celebration by offering you an additional 30% off of all of our books* during the month of July!

This means that our biggest books (our 3-volume books like “The Hunger Games”) which are normally $30 will only cost $21 in July … and our least expensive books (like “Clifford’s Animal Sounds”) which are normally $4 will only cost $2.80! We hope that these exceptionally low prices will enable you to order lots of books for your children’s summer reading pleasure … or you can even stock up for the holidays!

To participate, just go to our website:  

and shop, shop, shop! (The prices on the website already reflect the extra 30% off!) 
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank you for all of your help and support over the years! We couldn’t do what we do without you! 
With gratitude and best wishes,

Debra Bonde, Director

Happy Reading!

*Sorry, this offer does not apply to our non-book items (e.g. our shirts, totes, jewelry, etc.) or to any shipping charges. 

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Eisenhower Park Playground & SprayGround

Location:  Behind Eisenhower Middle School at 2901 N 72nd Street, Kansas City, KS 66101

Cost:  FREE!

Web Site:

You can see more pictures of the park and details about its installation at

While playing on the playground behind Eisenhower Middle School, Peanut was irresistibly lured by the sounds of tumbling water and squealing children.  Fully clothed, he and Sprout gleefully ran to the SprayGround located right next to the playground.  They had an AMAZING time.

The SprayGround:

Peanut and Sprout run through the sprayground.

Peanut and Sprout run through the sprayground.

The sprayground is in a fenced area–there is pone way out, so it’s fairly easy to keep an eye on your kids and make sure they don’t escape.  The water is recycled, so there are rules to keep it clean:  no food or drink, and diapers must be changed outside the fence.  The smell of chlorine is intense–if you or your kiddo is sensitive to chemicals, this may be a spot to avoid.

The sprayground is zero-entry, so kids of all abilities should be able to access it easily.  There are tons of different spraying devices, some that come up from the ground and others that spray from above.  The water pools a lot towards the middle, but it’s probably not more than 4″ deep, making this a safe place to explore even for a non-swimmer.

Three girls play in the playground; the magic orange pillar is at the right.

Three girls play in the playground; the magic orange pillar is at the right.

Tip:  There is a black, smooth panel in a short orange pillar towards the gate.  This is the “on” switch to make the water start.

The Playground:

The playground is fairly large and is seated in mulch; there’s asphalt tile around the base of the shorter slide.  The equipment itself is blue and beige, so is fairly low contrast; even so, Peanut navigated it with ease.  There are several drop-offs at the top level that made me nervous; neither Peanut nor Sprout even came close to falling, but I still felt I had to be RIGHT THERE, just in case.

A view of the playground from the sprayground.  There are plenty of benches for tired parents to perch on while their kids burn off some energy.

A view of the playground from the sprayground. There are plenty of benches for tired parents to perch on while their kids burn off some energy.

There are two sets of monkey bars and a slide line as well; these were too tall for my small children to use.

The Verdict:

Peanut was ecstatic to be there and navigated both areas with no problem.  I would be anxious with a fully blind child on the playground, but I think the sprayground would be delightful for anyone, B/VI or otherwise.

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