edited by Sue Lichtenfels

The announcement of products and services in this column does not represent an endorsement by the American Council of the Blind, its officers, or staff. Listings are free of charge for the benefit of our readers. "The Braille Forum" cannot be held responsible for the reliability of the products and services mentioned. To submit items for this column, send a message to [email protected], or phone the national office at 1-800-424-8666, and leave a message in Sharon Lovering's mailbox. Information must be received at least two months ahead of publication date.


You are invited to attend the 36th annual Ski for Light International Week! It is open to blind and visually impaired recreational cross-country skiers, beginner to advanced. Sighted instructors/guides will help you learn the skills and techniques. It will be held Jan. 30-Feb. 6, 2011 in the Rocky Mountains at Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, Colo. Rooms can accommodate from one to four people. Packages start at $500 per person. Prices include all meals, round-trip transportation between the Denver airport and the resort, and trail fees. Skis, boots, and poles will be provided free to first-time participants. Partial stipends based on financial need are available for first timers. The application deadline is Nov. 1, 2010.  Visit the SFL web site,, to learn more and to submit your application.  For more information, contact Bob Hartt at [email protected] or (703) 845-3436 or Lynda Boose at [email protected] or (906) 370-7541.


The National Leadership Consortium in Sensory Disabilities (NLCSD) is now accepting fellowship applications from individuals pursuing a doctoral degree in the sensory impairment field. The program begins in the fall of 2011, but applications are due by Dec. 31, 2010. Applicants must be pursuing their doctoral work either in the deaf-blind, deaf/hard of hearing, or blind/visually impaired programs at one of the consortium's 25 member universities. The application and additional information are available at


Hadley offers a new Assignment Submission Line for its students who do not have computer access or who cannot write their assignments. Students can call an 800 number and record their work onto the instructor's mailbox. For more information, visit


The backTpack is an ergonomically designed bag for school and travel. Unlike a regular backpack with all the weight on the back, the backTpack is actually two shoulder bags that join across the back. While still allowing the hands to be free, the weight is more evenly distributed to aid balance and posture. The design allows immediate access to the contents even when seated. The backTpack is endorsed by the American Physical Therapy Association. Each standard side bag measures 13 x 13 x 3 and contains various pockets. For more information, contact Marilyn M. von Foerster at (503) 365-7554 or visit


This past May ACVO/Merial sponsored the National Service Dog Eye Exam Event. A record-breaking number of service dogs received free eye exams by veterinary ophthalmologists. Due to the overwhelmingly positive response, plans are already in the works for next year. Additional information about this project is available at


The U.S. Blind Tandem Bikers Connection offers a web site where tandem riders who are blind (stokers) can find sighted tandem pilots in their area. When you visit, you must create a free profile in order to begin the search. Stokers need not have their own bike to get started. The site also includes links to blind tandem clubs around the country, listings of tandem events, and news about blind bicyclists. For additional information, contact [email protected]; [email protected]; or call (512) 419-1372.


Tennis Unlimited offers a method to aid tennis instructors in teaching the game to people who are blind or visually impaired. The web site shows instructors how to teach various racket swings and court movements using verbal feedback. For a game, there is no ball and no opposing player. The instructor calls out instructions to the visually impaired player as if they were playing each point for real. Players get an exercise workout just like a regular game. To learn more about this new activity, visit or call (845) 406-4623.


In August the Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) hired two disability leaders in high-ranking positions. Sue Swenson, with extensive experience in family support, inclusion, and transition, now serves as OSERS Deputy Assistant Secretary. Melody Musgrove, who has a long history in special education and program evaluation, is the new Director of the Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP).


Enhanced Vision has released Pebble 4.3, an updated version of its handheld portable magnifier. The device includes a 4.3-inch LCD screen, 2x-10x magnification, 28 viewing options for optimal contrast, freeze frame capability, built-in light source, foldable handle, and over two hours of battery life. The Pebble comes with reusable batteries, carrying case, and 2-year warranty. For more information, visit or call 1-888-811-3161.


Kurzweil Educational Systems has recently released Kurzweil 3000 Version 12 for Windows Web License Edition. This edition includes all the features of Version 12 but with the ability to access the software from any Internet-connected computer. The additional features include web-based file storage for access whenever needed and personalized account profiles that save individualized user settings. The basic Kurzweil 3000 Version 12 for Windows is also available in stand-alone and network editions, with a USB version to be released this fall. To learn more about Kurzweil products, visit


The Jewish Guild for the Blind's National Tele-Support Network now has a new support group for parents of children who are both autistic and visually impaired. It aims to help parents navigate a system where advice and resources are not easy to find. The group is sponsored in part by the Reader's Digest Partners for Sight Foundation. For information about the telephone support groups, contact Dan Callahan at (212) 769-7815.

In May, Guild students participated in Touch Graphics, Inc.'s research and development trials of the WiiCane. The WiiCane is a system for promoting proper use of the white cane in orientation and mobility among young children. It is based on Wii video game hardware; a Wii remote is mounted to a white cane, and the camera on the device tracks the position of lights along an overhead strip. It connects to a computer via Bluetooth radio and sends audio and vibratory feedback to the student's headphones and to the motor in the Wii remote. Some students showed marked improvement after just three sessions.


National Braille Press now has available "Windows 7 and Vista Explained: A Guide for Blind and Partially Sighted Users," by Dr. Sarah Morley Wilkins and Steve Griffiths. This is a step-by-step guide on the newest Microsoft systems. It starts with the basics and guides users through topics such as file management, troubleshooting, and using the Internet. The book is available to users in the U.S. and Canada only. Formats include hard-copy braille (5 volumes), electronic braille, audio CD, large print, and multimedia CD. The CD includes an e-braille file to print one hard copy, an HTML-formatted document, and a DAISY audio file including DAISY player. Each format costs $45. Also available are tactile or large print computer screen layouts for $28. For more information, call 1-800-548-7323 or visit

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