Tuesday, September 25, 2012


Three tricks to improve your writing

There are three great tips for improving writing: simple sentences, simple language, simple logic.

Simple sentences are best. People with dyslexia often have difficulty with writing. Dyslexics can think about ideas but have difficulty getting the ideas written down. Frequently thoughts are not written down as complete sentences. On the other hand, one very long sentence can end up being a paragraph. Writing can be improved by understanding sentences. Sentences are made up of a subject and predicate. Here are two sentences.
1. John spoke eloquently to his mother.
The subject is "John". The predicate is "spoke eloquently to his mother."
2. Abraham Lincoln was president during the American Civil War.
The subject is "Abraham Lincoln". The predicate is "was president during the American Civil War."
Simple sentences are clear. Simple sentences get ideas across. Sentences with combined ideas are confusing. So simple is best.

Simple language is best. People generally learn to write in school. Writing often imitates the things that are read. Dyslexics often do not read a lot. Dyslexics often mostly read textbooks. Surprisingly, textbooks are often not good examples of writing. Textbooks are ponderous to read. Textbooks are filled with specialized language and jargon. Good writing sounds like a conversation. Good writing sounds like talking to a friend.

Simple logic is best. Conversations are best when ideas flow from one another. Writing is the same way. Here is a method for making writing flow logically. You start by writing a list of your ideas. Each idea is expressed by just one word or maybe three words. You then rearrange your word list so ideas flow from one to another. Writing usually has a beginning, a middle and an end section. So you rearrange your list into a beginning, middle and an end. At first writing has gaps in the logical steps. You look over your list and add additional ideas. You then arrange your ideas into similar groups to make paragraphs. Last you write a simple sentence for each of your ideas. Before you know it, you have written your paper, story or poem.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


The Power of Rereading

One of my first assistive devices was a real to reel tape recorder. With this tape recorder I recorded my readers as they read to me. So for every book that i had to read, I had a recording. The major advantage of recording my readers was the ability to reread my books and assignments. Rereading is my formula for success in learning. Many students in school often do not understand the value of rereading. Very good students often reread their assignments. My formula for success goes as follows:

Read and study the material one time and you will get a C.
Read and study the material two times and you will get a B.
Read and study the material three times and you will get an A.
This formula changed me from a D student to a straight A student.

Once I learned this approach of rereading, I would make no marks or notes on my first reading. In this way I could follow the authors train of thought with no interruption. On my second reading, I would highlight the major words to be memorized. Note I still highlighted just single words. Then on my third review, I would highlight important sentences to be learned. The advantage of this approach was to focus on the most important concepts to be learned. If you highlight on the first reading you often highlight to much material, since all the ideas are new. When you highlight to many things, it is difficult to focus on the main concepts.

Nowadays most students do not need to use people to read to them. They use a computer with text-to-speech to read their digitized books and articles to them.. My formula for success still holds true. One advantage of having people read to you is the camaraderie of learning. So I also highly recommend joining study groups to review your material. Study groups are very helpful and a great deal of fun.

Friday, September 14, 2012


My iPhone is worth $8,700

iPhone is extremely disruptive technology. For those who are blind or have low vision the iPhone now substitutes for many technological items that used to be very expensive. For example blind individuals rarely took photographs with a digital camera. But now that they have iPhones blind people routinely will take pictures and even videos. I have compiled a list of items that my iPhone now replaces. More importantly almost everything on this list was too expensive for me to acquire previously.

Items I owned:
BookSense (mp3 player/radio/clock/recorder and portable Daisy reading device) -- $449
Talking watch - $43
Plustek Optibook 3800 scanner -- $269
Laptop computer -- $500
Digital camera with digital view finder -- $200
Video camera -- $200
Total $1,161

Items I had at work but could not afford for home use:
ZoomText magnifier/screen reader -- $599
ZoomText keyboard -- $99
Dragon NautrallySpeaking Pro voice recognition -- $599
Kurzweil 3000 (scan/read software) $1,395
Aladdin Classic video magnifier -- $1,595
FineReader Pro OCR software -- $169
Total $4,357

Items I could have really used but could not afford:
Medical Alert system -- $600/year
Handheld digital i-loview magnifier/reader -- $495
Trekker Breeze (GPS for blind) -- $930
KNFB Reader (portable scanner/OCR) -- $897
Voice Mate PDA (calendar, contacts, calculator) -- $260
Total $3,182

Grand Total $8,700

Monday, September 10, 2012


Machines that Read Aloud

In 1976, Ray Kurzweil was the first person to put a scanner, optical character recognition software (OCR), and computerized text-to-speech together into one machine. This machine called the Kurzweil Reading Machine could process print and read out loud to a person. His first reading machine was the size of a home dishwasher. This machine would scan a page of a book and read the page aloud. The original Kurzweil Reading Machine cost $50,000. The first person to own the Kurzweil Reading Machine was the Grammy award song writer and singer Stevie Wonder.

The Kurzweil Reading Machine was a dedicated scanner-computer was used only for reading. The second generation Kurzweil Reading Machine cost $15,000. I had one of these machines at work. The third generation Kurzweil Reading Machine cost $5000. I purchased one of these machines for myself to read books at home. Since I am legally blind instead of spending money on a car, I bought a reading machine instead. However, at these prices generally only institutions could afford to purchase a reading machines.

The major advantage of the Kurzweil Reading Machine was that I could read any book at anytime. I no longer needed to find a person to read to me or send books away to be recorded. Later on Kurzweil Education Systems came out with the scanning-reading software Kurzweil 3000 which ran on a personal computer. With a scanner and a PC, I scanned many books to read. However this software was expensive costing $1,400. At this price tag the Kurzweil 3000 software is still to expensive for most families to afford.

Today one can skip the scanning process entirely. A person can obtain ebooks which can be read aloud using the free build in text-to-speech on an iPad, iPhone, or an iPod Touch. You can get the introductory iPod Touch for $200. I have read a large number of books on my iPodTouch and iPad. I have a friend who prefers to read ebooks on his iPhone. The great advantage of reading with Apple's iDevices are their portability. I now carry a library of books with me wherever I go.

Fortunately there is a wide selection of ebooks available to read. You can purchase ebooks from Apple's iBook Store. If you have a print disability like dyslexia or a disability which prevents you from reading books and live in the United States, you can also get ebooks from bookshare.org. K-12 students with an Individual Education Plan (IEP) and a disability which prevents reading a regular book qualify to free ebooks from Bookshare. Other individuals with a disability that interferes with reading can get unlimited ebooks from Bookshare for an annual fee of $50 a year.

Image is of the first generation Kurzweil Reading Machine.

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