Blind Abilities presents the TVI Toolbox. Where the collaboration between Teachers, Counselors, Parents, Agencies and the Students themselves help enhance the opportunities for success.
Transitioning from high school to college and the workplace is a major step and the beginning of lifetime goals and aspirations. As Wesley Sissen, the featured Transition Student in the Success Stories portion of this podcast, puts it very well, “No one has to do it alone.”
From the TVI’s to the Agency counselor’s and program specialist, working together along with parents as well, is creating more opportunities and successes for Transition age students.
Sharing experiences through Success Stories, sharing programs that make a positive impact, sharing ideas, findings, upcoming events and the Tools for Success all play a part in making the transition process a natural progression and better understood by all.
In this introductory episode we illustrate the collaboration between TVI’s and State Services for the Blind personnel. In the Tools for Success the FreeIOS Seeing AI app is given an overview. This Swiss Army Knife of an app does OCR, Product Identification, Color detection, light detection and even Hand Writing detection. Microsoft’s accessibility team has done wonders with this new app for the iPhone making it a personal favorite for many in the blindness community.
On The Horizon is a bulletin space for upcoming events, information and resources submitted by listeners and our staff. You can submit to On the Horizon by emailing jessica Hodges.
The Success Stories feature an experience of a Transition Student, whether they are attending college, preparing for college or are now employed, the Success Stories brings a positive and a sharing of the experience of transitioning from high school to college and the work place.
Here are the links to the information we bring to this episode.
Paths To Literacy
Parent Child Institute 2018
The Parent Child Institute(PCI) is open to all Minnesota families with children, birth to 6, who are Blind or Visually Impaired and/or deaf/blind (including children with additional disabilities). Topics will include: advocating for your child, music therapy, pre-braille literacy, Orientation Mobility, sensory needs, and being an active member of the IFSP/IEP process…
Seeing AI App for the iPhone
Seeing AI is a free app that narrates the world around you. Designed for the blind and low vision community, this ongoing research project harnesses the power of AI to open up the visual world and describe nearby people, text and objects.
Optimized for use with VoiceOver, the app enables you to recognize:
• Short Text – Speaks text as soon as it appears in front of the camera.
• Documents – Provides audio guidance to capture a printed page, and recognizes the text, along with its original formatting.
• Products – Scans barcodes, using audio beeps to guide you; hear the name, and package information when available. (works with iPhone 6 and later)
• People – Saves people’s faces so you can recognize them, and get an estimate of their age, gender, and emotions.
• Scenes (early preview) – Hear an overall description of the scene captured.
• Currency – Recognizes currency notes.
• Color – Identifies color.
• Handwriting – Reads handwritten text.
• Light – Generates an audible tone corresponding to the brightness in the surroundings.
• Images in other apps – Just tap “Share” and “Recognize with Seeing AI” to describe images from Mail, Photos, Twitter, and more.
Seeing AI is built to help you achieve more by leveraging the power of the cloud and artificial intelligence. As the research progresses, more channels may be added.
Check out tutorials with this YouTube playlist: http://aka.ms/SeeingAIPlaylist
Visit http://SeeingAI.com for more details
State Services for the Blind
We offer tools and training for employment and for helping seniors remain independent and active. As Minnesota’s accessible reading source we also transcribe books and other materials into alternative formats, including audio and braille. We assist Minnesotans who are blind, DeafBlind, losing vision, or who have another disability that makes it difficult to read print.
I hope you find what you need here. We’ve also created a Tips for Using Our New Website page.
If you’d like to apply for services, learn more, or have more questions, just give us a call. You’ll find contact information for all of our offices on our contact page, or you can call our main office at 651-539-2300.
See complete transcription below.
Thank you for listening!
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On the web at www.BlindAbilities.com
Send us an email
Get the Free Blind Abilities App on the App Store.
TVI Toolbox: Success Stories, Tools for Success – SeeingAI App, Meet Wesley Sissen. (Transcription Provided)
Welcome to the Blind Abilities TVI Toolbox.
In this first episode we’ll be hearing from
professionals from the State Services for the Blind in Minnesota.
They’ll be talking about what they provide, and the collaboration that they have with teachers for the visually impaired.
Our news update “On the Horizon” Bringing
you News that you can use.
The ‘Tools for Success Spotlight’ is on “Seeing AI” a Microsoft app that’s free from the app store.
And our transition success story is Wesley
Sisson, attending his first year in college at the
University of Minnesota Duluth.
We hope you enjoy this introductory TVI toolbox episode.
And for more podcast with the blindness perspective check us out on the web at www.BlindAbilities.com Download our free app from the app store;
that’s two words: “Blind Abilites.” We hope you enjoy.
[music changes] Sheila Koenig:
“The special education teacher and I, we worked on technology.
We looked at different job options and job
opportunities, and career opportunities.” Male voice:
“Used State Services for the Blind all the way through college.” Narrator: Welcome to TVI Toolbox.
[musical interlude] Wesley Sisson:
Part of the ‘blind skills’ that I had
to learn which helped me with my job is I have to be really on top of things.
Success stories of students on their journey, through the transition process: From high school, to college, to the workplace.
With agency professionals, teachers of the
visually impaired, parents of students and the students themselves.
What’s in your toolbox?
-What’s in your toolbox?
-What’s in your toolbox?
TVI toolbox is a tool: for teachers, for agencies, for clients.
To enhance the opportunities and the understanding of transition services.
Professionals talking about the services that
they provide, teachers for the visually impaired talking
about topics of transitioning from high school, to college, to the workplace.
Students talking about their journeys, their
successes and some of the barricades and brick walls that were in their way; and
solutions, tips and tricks on how they got through it.
“Whether they go to college
or directly into work…
We’re all about helping them to get the skills to be successful, while they’re still in high school.” Narrator:
That’s Sheila Koenig, she’s transition coordinator at State Services for the Blind of Minnesota.
Not only is there transitioning from high
school, to college, to the workplace- there is also transitioning from public schools to the state agencies.
And that’s where TVIs and counselors
come together to enhance the opportunities for success.
“Definitely the connection
that we have with teachers of blind and visually impaired students is critical.
These teachers are with students all the time and they are such a critical tool in how the students access all
of their academic information; and the other programs: like orientation
and mobility, assistive technology, self-advocacy.
These teachers are really a vehicle for the
students to get all of this information.” Narrator:
Employment Team Program Specialist, Deja Van Alstyne Deja Van Alstyne:
“What is your job goal? What..
What do you want to do? What are the various avenues to get there? We’ll work on trying to figure out what’s
the most appropriate point from point-A to point-B, for you.” Narrator:
Transition counselor, Ashlyn Cahill.
“At state services for the blind we have the IPE which is the ‘Individualized Plan for Employment’ and that outlines all the services we agree to provide the student in order for
them to reach their employment goal.” Narrator:
It is the collaborative effort of
the teachers of the visually impaired, state agencies, the parents of the students, along with the
students themselves in an effort to enhance the opportunities towards success and creating and making these partnerships cannot start too soon Sheila Koenig:
“And it used to be that we would start working with students when they’re adults, and now because of the new laws and regulations we can start working at age fourteen, or ninth grade whichever comes first.
Teachers are really excited about this new
way to partner and the information is really flowing both ways.
We find out for example how we might be able to supplement with something like ONM, or Assistive Technology, for example.
And in turn, a teacher might write as an IEP goal for a student to connect with someone at State Services for the Blind, in order to find out more about us.
So it truly is a partnership.” Narrator:
Now here’s Jessica Hodges
with ‘On the Horizon” and this is where we share useful information: articles, websites, and upcoming events submitted by our listeners and our staff.
“This month, On the Horizon, we have several lovely tidbits of information to give you.
First from Sheila Koenig.
Transition coordinator at State Services for the Blind.
Located in St.
Paul, Minnesota She stresses how important reading is to students, in particular transition age students.
To help with this she recommends people check out the website called ‘Paths to Literacy.’ This website is a collection of blog posts
aiming to help readers from every walk of life.
Including those who: are deaf-blind, speak
English as a Second Language, or are newly blinded.
It can also be helpful for those who have
been blind since birth, but struggle to get into reading.
If you’d like to know more about this website
go to www.pathstoliteracy.org/topic.
Happy reading! I myself I’m a reader and it’s a very, very important thing [in order] to have a new life.
The next topic does not have anything to do with reading, but hopefully it will help with reading later on in life.
In the charming town of Faribault, Minnesota.
The Minnesota State Academy for the Blind
is holding a Parent/Child Institute, on March 10th, 2018.
This workshop, and networking event is aiming towards Minnesotan parents who have children under six, who are blind
or visually impaired.
It’s open to children with multiple disabilities as well, and will cover various things like: Orientation mobility, IEP processes, sensory curriculum options and more.
If you’d like to know more or register: you can go to the Minnesota State Academy for the Blind website msab.msa.state.mn.us.
Turn your child into a great reader.
If your state doesn’t have one of these consider Facebook.
There are a lot of different groups for a
lot of different things, including blindness.
For parents, and students, and young children alike.
You’re likely to find the resources that you
need online if your state doesn’t have a place that you
can gather them.
If you’d like to submit an event to
‘On the Horizon,’ feel free to email Jessica.Hodges@state.mn.us and we’ll try and get you in next month.
Thank you, and I hope you have a lovely day, wherever you are.
Thank You Jessica.
And now tools for success.
The app today is ‘Seeing AI’ that’s S-E-E-I-N-G space A-I.
Stands for: Artificial Intelligence, and that’s from Microsoft.
It’s a free app on the iOS platform, and you can get OCR, scene-detection, product-identification, where you take a picture of the UPC code and it will identify the product.
The Person Channel will allow you to identify people or let you know where the faces are located through the camera lens, for centering faces while taking a picture.
It’ll also identify people that you have identified, and that’s in the menus! And now, with four new channels added, it’s
a Swiss Army knife of apps for the blind.
They have currency detection, light detection, color detection and handwriting detection.
Now some of these are more novelty than they
are practical for the workplace, or for school, but the short text is a quick way to riffle
through some mail to identify, you don’t have to do anything just point and
it starts talking when it identifies text.
There’s also a document channel where you can read documents and it tells you: “left, right, up, down…” Computerized Voice:
“Right edge not visible.” Jeff:
…for help in shooting the picture of the text that you want to get the OCR from.
It even has speech if you don’t use voice
So it’s a very versatile app, and now with the new added features: Light detection; it’ll get higher pitched
or lower pitched…
[beeping becomes increasingly higher in pitch]
…depending on the brightness of the light.
The brighter, the higher the pitch.
So it’s an easy way to identify if the lights
As for the Color Detection: Computerized Voice:
“green, black, grey.” Jeff:
It does a pretty good job, just like most detection devices do.
“White, black, grey and brown, red.” Jeff:
Sometimes they’re good, sometimes it’s not so good; depending on the lighting in the room.
And the handwriting…
Well, the jury’s still out on the handwriting, but it’s a great start.
Microsoft is really doing a great job of making this available for everybody.
Especially with the Currency Identification, it’s available in multiple currencies, and it works pretty good.
So check it out: “Seeing AI” a free download from the App Store.
[thumping and a swooshing transition sound] And for today’s Success Story we’re to talk
to Wesley Sisson.
He’s a first year student at the University
of Minnesota Duluth, way up by Lake Superior and he’s active in
So without further ado meet Wesley Sisson [thumping and a swooshing transition sound] Jeff Thompson:
Welcome to “Blind Abilities,” I’m Jeff Thompson.
We’re talking to Wesley Sisson, he’s a first
year student at the University of Minnesota, Duluth.
He graduated from high school, transitioned
to college, and someday, would like to finish his college and a little
bit warmer part of the country.
Glad to have him here.
Please welcome Wesley Sisson.
Wesley, how are you doing? Wesley:
“I’m doing pretty good, how about yourself?” Jeff:
I’m doing great, and thanks for taking
the time I know you’re busy up there in school and coming on and speaking to our listeners on Blind Abilities.
“Of course I appreciate it .” Jeff:
So, Wesley can you tell us a little
bit about yourself? Wesley: “Yeah my name is Wesley Sisson.
I am a freshman at the University of Minnesota, Duluth.
My current majors are World History, Foreign Policy, and Environmental Law.
I did PSEO classes all of my senior year of high school,
so I took college classes while still in high school.
I decided to come back to UMD for the rest of my college career.” Jeff:
Well congratulations on going through
the transition, and getting to college, and it seems like you’re well on your way.
you enjoying it? Wesley:
“I’m finding it extremely fun, it’s
it’s- and the challenge is always something I enjoy.” Jeff:
So when you were in high school, how
did you get to know State Services for the Blind? Wesley:
“We got to know them when I was- I believe fourteen, they reach out to high schools with students who could require some of their assistance later in life.
They came in and we had a meeting where we discussed what they had to offer and what I could gain by accessing State Services programs.” Jeff:
And there you are today; up there at
the University of Minnesota, Duluth.
Wesley: “Mm-hmm.” Jeff:
So you didn’t head for warmer weather, or anything? Wesley:
“I’ve been thinking about it for maybe grad school of heading down to the southwest.
I love Colorado, specifically.
Colorado or New Mexico.
I’m going to probably finish these three/four years and then decide what I want to go from there.” Jeff:
So I’m assuming that you’re in your
own dorm, apartment- some type of living situation? Wesley:
“Yeah, I am currently on campus in the dorms.” Jeff:
You mentioned to me, when we were talking before this podcast, that you got a little bit of mobility instruction? Wesley:
“During my time acclimating myself to the campus here I accessed State Services resources, and had some ‘orientation mobility’ here on campus.
Where I just kind of learned a lot of the
lay out here, where certain classes could be, and just kind of how you can find your own
way on the campus.” Jeff:
How did you connect with your teachers? What process did you go through to let them know that you’re visually impaired? Wesley:
“I connected with the Office of Disabilities here, and we basically emailed professors, and just kind of said: ‘Well, I’m a visually impaired student, and there are certain resources that I require to be in the class, but it’s nothing to be worried about.’ We just kind of reached out to professor’s
by email and just told them what was up.” Jeff:
So can I ask what types of alternative techniques or devices do you use on a daily routine? Wesley:
“A PC with JAWS screen reader, sometimes NVDA as another screen reader.
I am a Braille-user, so I like to kind of..
-depending on the assignment, depending on whatever I’m doing- I like to switch back and forth, and yeah just keep my options diverse.” Jeff:
And that’s working well for you obviously.
Wesley: “Mm-hmm.” Jeff:
So Wesley, do you have any hobbies that you partake in? Wesley:
“I’m a vocalist and musician.
I’ve sang in many choirs, I’ve been in charge of a couple musical groups -a couple rock groups here.
I currently have one on campus that involves a few musicians, and I’m an outdoorsy environmentalist kind of person.
And I am currently one of the Environmental Task Force leaders for one of the nonprofit’s here at the University.
It’s called MPIRG, or M-P-I-R-G, or Minnesota Public Interest Research Group, and we focus on a lot of social, economic, and environmental issues brought up by students.” Jeff:
Oh that’s interesting.
That’s a good location for it too;
up there in Lake Superior area.
It’s a statewide organization.
It’s completely student-run, non-partisan, non-profit group; and we work on issues that students are interested in on campus, in the Duluth community; and we have a presence Statewide.
So, we get to talk to representatives, and go down and talk with our elected officials, on what matters pertaining to students; and I’m glad to be a part of that.” Jeff:
No, that’s good.
That sounds pretty proactive- seems like you’re involved in stuff.
Did your visual impairment ever hinder your willingness to get involved in activities like that? Wesley:
“My visual impairment never really was an issue in terms of my willingness to get involved.
You sometimes have to find alternative ways of working around a system, especially in cases where situations are majority ‘sighted-based.’ I’ve always been a proactive person and I’d
love to get out in the community.” Jeff:
Obviously, you’ve been in high school, and
with that pro-activeness and willingness to get out: how was high school? You must have had some good training and good
advocates around you.
“In high school, it got a little interesting, with school resources, versus state resources.
And I got myself and into a couple binds here-there with in terms of getting work that I need, and stuff like that.
But when State Services for the Blind stepped in, they opened up a whole new realm of possibilities that can be accessed by students, and later on.
And what are some of those resources? Wesley:
“Depending on the person you can have training in stuff relating to technology, and all your use of computers an- and phones.
What’s the best way that works for you? I am currently looking at the new Braille system that is coming out here- or that has come out, and just kind of learning how that new system works.
You can have orientation mobility, learning your way around.
You’re- if you’re in a big city how does one navigate and learn how to get the most out of your everyday experience.
Yeah.” Jeff: Good stuff, good stuff.
I remember back in the day I used to have
this impression without people telling me, I didn’t know any blind or visually impaired people- I thought state services like- was like a safety net.
“Just in case.” But the more and more as time’s going on
here it’s becoming a vehicle for people, like a resource, it gives you
more optimism towards your future goals.
“It is definitely a hand-up resource, not hand-out.
It gives people the access to resources that they might not have realized existed; or had access to before.” Jeff:
That’s right good.
You mentioned a phone.
What type of device are you using? Wesley: “I am currently using an iPhone6.” Jeff: Mm-hmm.
You like that? Wesley:
“I find it is very easy
for a user to get acclimated to, and use…” Jeff: Voice-over accessibility Wesley: “Voice-over is very easy.
Siri, although not necessarily the most helpful thing, is something that allows you to research and-” Jeff: So what are your goals after college? Wesley:
“My goals are to get involved in conservation work, as a legal representative, in doing Environmet’l- Environmental law.
I’m interested in foreign policy, and being
able to go to other countries, and work on issues between countries.
I’m a historian at heart, and I love educating
people about historical events and stuff so- teaching is always something in the back of my mind.” Jeff:
The Industrial Revolution is one of my favorites, in America, right in that period of time.
“Yeah it is definitely an interesting period, and I’m a World War II fanatic.
But I love everything from early European history, to colonialism and I’m currently taking world history courses, along with early, early Roman Empire stuff; which is really interesting.
Jeff: Yeah, I love history.
We’re your parents effectively involved in advocating for you as a youngster? Wesley:
“Yeah my parents, both, were extremely good at advocating and taught me to do the same.
They would go to most meeting stuff with teachers to try to find the best way of working on stuff that would be beneficial for me and it was a great example for me.
[music fades in] Jeff:
And you mentioned that they taught you to advocate for yourself.
Wesley: “Yeah,” Jeff: And that’s important.
“It’s extremely important.
Especially when one wants to be a productive member of society, and take part in education, and it’s the best way for someone to get out and find their best- and be their best.
Wesley, what advice would you give to someone who is in high school and transitioning into college, and looking towards the workplace? Wesley:
“I would say that there are resources available that can help you make the best choices for yourself.
Where they’re not too far away.
State Services is a great starting point in finding what works best for you, and no one should be doing this alone.” Jeff: Well great.
Is there anything else that you would like to tell the listeners on Blind Abilities? Wesley:
“Just keep being awesome.” Jeff: There you go.
Well, Wesley, thank you very much for coming on and sharing a little bit about yourself.
Good luck with your future, your goals, and
And seems like you’re on a good path.
“I appreciate it.
I thank you for letting me come on.” [Musical Interlude] Jeff:
Really enjoyed talking to Wesley, and it’s success stories like Wesley’s that reinforces the collaboration that we’re building between the teachers of the visually impaired, the agency, the parents and the students; to enhance the opportunities for success.
We hope you enjoyed, and until next time.
[Music] [Transition noise] -When we share
-What we see
-Through each other’s eyes…
[Multiple voices overlapping, in unison, to form a single sentence]
…We can then begin to bridge the gap between the limited expectations, and the realities of Blind Abilities.
For more podcasts with the blindness perspective:
Check us out on the web at www.BlindAbilites.com On Twitter @BlindAbilities
Download our app from the App store: ‘Blind Abilities’; that’s two words.
Or send us an e-mail at:
firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks for listening.