FSCast #210

January,  2022

GLEN GORDON:  On this first FSCast of 2022, we’ll meet Maureen Hayden, who’s low vision and doing her Ph.D. in marine biology  at Texas A&M University.  Then Dr. Greg Williams and Ashley Neybert from Independence Science demonstrate the LabQuest and Logger Pro software that allow blind people to fully participate in science experiments.  All on FSCast 210.

Hello, everybody.  Glen Gordon, well caffeinated, welcoming you to this month’s edition of the podcast.  Got a nice note from longtime JAWS user Curtis Chong regarding my comments about Windows 11 and sorting files in Explorer.  He pointed out that my approach for sorting files there is much more complicated than it needs to be.

And in fact there are two different approaches that work equally well on Windows 11 as they do on Windows 10.  The first one involves making sure that you’re in Details view.  So if you’re in Explorer, and you tab around, you will get to two or three radio buttons that let you set the view.  If you’re in Details view, then when you’re on the list of files, tabbing once more will put you on a button that represents the column on which things are sorted.  And if you don’t like that column, you can arrow left and right between Name, Date, Type, and Size and sort on whichever one pleases you.  And then hitting the spacebar a second time actually will sort in reverse direction.

If you don’t want to be in Details view for some reason, or you like the idea of sorting from a menu, you can be in the file list and make sure that no file is selected.  So unless JAWS announces that no file is selected when you get there,  press CTRL+SPACE to unselect whatever is.  Then you can press the Applications key to bring up the context menu.  You’ll find an option under there called Sort.  And under there are the names of the same columns I just mentioned a second ago.  And you can select an item from that context menu and do the sort that way.  So I thank Curtis for his nice note and even better for his simple way of sorting files.

In 2022 I’m happy to report that things are beginning to open up a bit.  And that means that Freedom Scientific is back on the road participating in conferences.  As this podcast is released, we’re at the ATIA Conference in Orlando.  The CSUN Conference is coming up in March.  Couple of things going on in February.  If you also plan to be out and about and would like to come join us, best thing to do is go to FreedomScientific.com/events.  And there’s a heading for each month, and under that month you’ll see the various places we’ll be and some details about how you can participate.

I want to remind you of a few things coming up in February.  On the 17th at 12 noon Eastern, that’s the third Thursday of the month, which means we’re doing a live webinar.  This time around it’ll be Track Changes with JAWS.  So if you’re collaborating with others, editing documents, Track Changes is something you need to know, and you need to know how to use it well.  That’s what we’ll be covering in the webinar.  You can sign up by going to FreedomScientific.com/training.  Also while there you can view any of our webinars on demand.  The one we just completed here in January has to do with the new Office Editor.  That’s what Office is moving to when you press F7.  It’s available now in Word.  Used to be when you pressed F7 you’d just get a spellchecker.  But now it’s kind of a launching pad for checking grammar, checking spelling, doing word count, and a variety of other things.  If you want a walkthrough on how to use all of this, that’s available on demand now.

Coming up on February 24th, we’ll be doing the next edition of FSOpenLine, doing it concurrently on Zoom and on Clubhouse.  It’s a little early yet to have the exact hour, but as things get closer you can go to blog.freedomscientific.com/fsopenline, and by then we’ll have details posted as to when we’re getting together on February 24th.

JAWS Power Tip

GLEN:  This month’s Power Tip comes from Michael Babcock, who does customer support for AT guys.  And he has found an old, but a really powerful JAWS feature has come in really handy in his work, specifically Flexible Web.  Because he’s on the phone with folks, he needs to get to the right information really quickly because he’s often reporting things to people while listening to JAWS and talking to them at the same time.  Flexible Web allows him to both hide information that he’s not interested in and get right to the point when there’s something he cares about.  So Michael, take it away from here.  Give us a demo.

MICHAEL BABCOCK:  So we’ll switch over to AT Guys in Chrome.

JAWS VOICE:  List box task switching.

MICHAEL:  Then I’ll go to the top of the page.


MICHAEL:  And I’m at the top of the page, and I’ll press E for  Edit box so I can quickly jump to the search field.

JAWS VOICE:  What are you looking for?

MICHAEL:  I’m asked what are you looking for, so enter forms mode.  Type “Versa Slate,” and then press ENTER again.


MICHAEL:  This then puts us on a page with the title of...

JAWS VOICE:  Search results – greater Versa Slate: AT Guys, your access technology experts.

MICHAEL:  And I know that if I go to the top of the page I can tap 1 followed by 3 to get to the first search result.

JAWS VOICE:  Advanced search heading level 1.  AfterShokz OpenMove bone conduction.

MICHAEL:  AfterShokz OpenMove bone conduction headphones are not what I’m looking for, so I’ll use H to get to the next product.

JAWS VOICE:  Versa Slate Paperless.  Erasable Braille Slate & Stylus.  Visited heading level 3 link.

MICHAEL:  And that is what I’m looking for.  Now, if someone called and asked me what the price of that is, then I’d have to DOWN ARROW three times and hear something like...

JAWS VOICE:  The Versa Slate is a braille slate that has 20 cells each and a magnetic stylus that is built into the side of the unit.

MICHAEL:  Followed by...

JAWS VOICE:  $120.00.

MICHAEL:  When all I really needed was that $120.  So let’s hide the description on this search result page.  We’ll UP ARROW once to get into the description.

JAWS VOICE:  ...have 20 cells each and a magnetic...

MICHAEL:  I’ll press CTRL to interrupt JAWS.  Press INSERT+SPACE followed by X.

JAWS VOICE:  Flexible Web dialog.  What would you like to do?  Create a new customization radio button checked.

MICHAEL:  And I’ll create a new customization by tapping ENTER.

JAWS VOICE:  How would you like to customize the page?  Hide an element radio button checked.

MICHAEL:  I want to hide an element.  The other option in this dialog is to start reading add an element.  And I’ll show you an example of that here in a moment.  So now we’ll press ENTER again.

JAWS VOICE:  Which of the following elements would you like to customize?  List box.  Div with class = “listingDescription” 1 of 6.

MICHAEL:  And there are six different items I can choose here.  You can hide headings, links, and different classes, and elements on a web page.  It may take some experimentation to get it the way you expect to have it.  However, I’ll show you how to undo your attempt if it doesn’t work the way you expect.  I know that I want to hide all div with class title = description.

JAWS VOICE:  Div with class = “listingDescription”.

MICHAEL:  So I’ll press ENTER.

JAWS VOICE:  Select a customization list box.  Hide Div 2 from the top with class = “listingDescription”.

MICHAEL:  And I can hide the second one, or I can hide all of them which is actually what I want to do.  So I’ll DOWN ARROW to...

JAWS VOICE:  Hide all Divs with class = “listingDescription”.

MICHAEL:  And I’ll tap ENTER.  This is now done.  So if I go to the top of the page...

JAWS VOICE:  Search results.

MICHAEL:  Tap the number 1 and then the number 3 for heading level 3.

JAWS VOICE:  AfterShokz OpenMove bone conduction headphones.

MICHAEL:  I’ll hear the AfterShokz, and I’ll use heading navigation.

JAWS VOICE:  Versa Slate Paperless, Erasable Braille Slate & Stylus, visited heading level 3 link.

MICHAEL:  And that’s the product that I heard last time.  Now, as you might remember, if I press DOWN ARROW, I heard the description, but now I hear...

 JAWS VOICE:  $120.00.

MICHAEL:  Allowing me to provide the price of the product to a customer as quickly as possible.  Sometimes that customer wants a brief description of the product, as well.  So SHIFT+H.

JAWS VOICE:  Versa Slate Paperless.  Erasable Braille Slate & Stylus, visited heading level 3 link.

MICHAEL:  We’ll press ENTER on this.

JAWS VOICE:  Search result.

MICHAEL:  And you may have heard a quick chime noise.  That told me that there is customizations on the web page I’m currently on.  Note:  If you navigate away from the domain at this point, then you will be prompted to save or discard the customizations you’ve made.

Now I’m at the top of this page.  And if I hit heading level 1 by tapping a 1...

JAWS VOICE:  Versa Slate Paperless, Erasable Braille Slate & Stylus, heading level 1.

MICHAEL:  And I know in order to quickly get to the description from here I press the letter B for button.

JAWS VOICE:  Add to cart button and mouse over.

MICHAEL:  And then I can DOWN ARROW and read the description.

JAWS VOICE:  The Versa Slate is a braille slate that is paperless and erasable.

MICHAEL:  However, it would be a lot faster if I could quickly get all pages of products that I load to jump me over to the specific part of the web page so I can start reading the description and explaining it to the customer.  So in order to do this, we’ll press INSERT+SPACE+X.

JAWS VOICE:  Flexible web dialog.  What would you like to do?  Create a new customization radio button checked.

MICHAEL:  We’ll create a new customization.

JAWS VOICE:  How would you like to customize the page?  Hide an element radio button checked.

MICHAEL:  We want the second option.

JAWS VOICE:  Start reading at an element radio button checked.

MICHAEL:  And then we’ll press ENTER.

JAWS VOICE:  Which of the following elements would you like to customize?  List box.  Div with ID = “productDescription” and with class = “productGeneral biggerText”.

MICHAEL:  And this is the element I want to start reading from, so I’ll tap ENTER.

JAWS VOICE:  Select a customization list box.  Start at Div 1 from the top with ID = “productDescription”.

MICHAEL:  And I always want to start with any Div with ID =.

JAWS VOICE:  Start at any Div with ID = “productDescription”.

MICHAEL:  So I’ll DOWN ARROW once and press ENTER.  Now, let’s say that you made a mistake, and you want to try a different Div with ID = on the page.  Or you’d rather start reading from that heading above, and you want to undo what you’ve done.  Press INSERT+SPACE+X.

JAWS VOICE:  Flexible web dialog.  What would you like to do?  Create a new customization radio...

MICHAEL:  You can DOWN ARROW to...

JAWS VOICE:  Restart at any Div with ID = “productDescription” radio button checked.

MICHAEL:  And that’ll allow you to retry the entire setup process or simply...

JAWS VOICE:  Undo start at any Div with ID = “productDescription” radio button checked.

MICHAEL:  Lastly in this box you have two more options.  One is...

JAWS VOICE:  Save temporary customizations as a rule radio button checked.

MICHAEL:  Or you can view all of your customizations.

JAWS VOICE:  View or change what rules apply radio button checked.

MICHAEL:  And change where they apply.  So I’m going to press UP ARROW to save, and save these real quick. 

JAWS VOICE:  Save temporary customizations as a rule radio button checked.

MICHAEL:  We’ll press ENTER.

JAWS VOICE:  Rule Name: edit.  Type in text.  ALT+R.

MICHAEL:  I’ll call it AT Guys Demo.  Press ENTER.  And now these customizations will be saved.  So let’s go back to the home page.  Press E for edit box.

JAWS VOICE:  What are you looking for edit?

MICHAEL:  Type in “Versa Slate.”  Press Return.

JAWS VOICE:  Search results.

MICHAEL:  Go to the top of the page.

JAWS VOICE:  Search results.

MICHAEL:  And we’ll use heading level 1.

JAWS VOICE:  Advanced search heading level 1.

MICHAEL:  To jump to advanced search we’ll use heading navigation to find the Versa Slate.  And let’s say they’re curious about the pink case.

JAWS VOICE:  AfterShokz open.  Versa Slate paperless.  Versa Slate.  Versa Slate Protective.  Versa Slate Protective Magnetic Case – Navy.  Heading level.  Versa Slate Protective Magnetic Case – Pink.  Heading level 3 link.

MICHAEL:  I’ll DOWN ARROW once to get the price for the customer.

JAWS VOICE:  $25.00.

MICHAEL:  And they want to get more information about what the case is.  So I’ll UP ARROW to the name of the product.

JAWS VOICE:  Heading level 3 link.  Versa Slate Protective Magnetic Case – Pink.  Link.

MICHAEL:  We’ll press ENTER. 

JAWS VOICE:  Versa Slate Protective Magnetic Case – Pink:  AT Guys, Your Access Technology Experts.

MICHAEL:  And now if I read the line, I’ll hear...

JAWS VOICE:  Protect your Versa Slate with this durable magnetic case.  Insulate your purchase from drops and scratches and easily take your Versa Slate with you.

GLEN:  Thanks, Michael, for taking the time to put that demo together.  In my experience rules that I created in Chrome work in the new Microsoft Edge and vice versa in both 2021 and 2022.  Michael verifies that it works in Firefox.  I did have a wrinkle at my end.  I couldn’t get it to work first time through.  Turns out I had a very, very old Flexible Web database that I’ve not really made use of in a year or two.  And until I deleted that, I wasn’t able to actually save my customizations.  So if you have a similar problem, where it doesn’t look like the customizations get saved, you may need to delete the Flexible Web database.  But based on my experience, I’ll look at that old database and try to figure out if we can fix these things more automatically.

For sending us in his Power Tip, Michael gets an update to his JAWS license.  If you want to submit a Power Tip, we have a couple in the hopper, but it’s never too soon to send one in because they’re judged based on their creativity and applicability to folks.  So yours may get used sooner than you might think.  Write to me at fscast@vispero.com.

Interview with Maureen Hayden

GLEN:  Maureen Hayden is doing her Ph.D. in marine biology at Texas A&M University.  She has a Facebook page called “Maureen the Marine Biologist.”  I heard her speak online about a year and a half ago, and I’ve wanted to have her on the podcast ever since.  But finally our schedules all align, and she’s with me on the line.  Maureen, welcome to FSCast.

MAUREEN HAYDEN:  Hey, thanks for having me today.

GLEN:  For those of us who don’t really know what marine biology involves, can you sort of do the brief summary?

MAUREEN:  Marine biology is the study of the coast and the ocean, specifically focusing on the animals that inhabit the ocean or live around it.

GLEN:  And what drew you to this topic, and how early in life?

MAUREEN:  It’s a good question.  So I grew up in the desert state of Arizona.  But both of my parents grew up on the coast.  So my mom’s from Maryland with the blue crabs, and then my dad grew up in Florida.  So I always grew up hearing about their love of the ocean, and my dad was also an officer in the Navy and served on aircraft carriers as a nuclear engineer.  So I think growing up with two parents who had a love of the ocean and kind of hearing about that secondhand.  And then really what was the turning point for me is my junior year of high school we had an elective class called Marine Biology and Oceanography that we could take.  And I just fell in love.  Like I changed my whole plan for college because initially I loved world travel, and I wanted to go into international relations.  But I was like, nope, that’s gone.  We’re going and being a marine biologist now.  And I just – I loved it.  The ocean, the animals, I like could not get enough.  It was my favorite class.

GLEN:  Going through school, how much vision did you have?  I don’t mean intellectual vision, I mean the other kind.

MAUREEN:  Oh, like my actual eyes, yes.

GLEN:  Yes.

MAUREEN:  So I was born with retinopathy of prematurity.  So I was a preemie.  And my vision’s been pretty stable throughout my whole life.  So to keep it simple, I’m blind in my right eye.  And then my vision is poor in my left eye not corrected by glasses.  For those of you who want the visual acuity, it is 20/400.

GLEN:  So what did it mean for that first marine biology elective that you did not have complete vision?

MAUREEN:  Yeah, so I did have a IEP, Individual Education Plan, in high school and received accommodations for all of my classes.  I think the unique thing when it comes to science and STEM classes in education is the applied aspect, where it’s not just about the reading and the writing, but we got to do presentations, for example.  She was very big on us having to do like group projects.  So I can’t see PowerPoint slides, for example, when I’m up there presenting.  So making sure I knew what the content of each slide was and having braille note cards, or we did a dissection of a clam, and making sure that I watched YouTube videos beforehand and then worked with my lab partner to use that descriptive language of, okay, you’re at the, for example, anterior post adductor muscle of the clam.

And actually in hindsight my lab partner and I having to use that descriptive language to communicate more closely during dissections I think ultimately led to a better understanding of the material.  Because you kind of have to make a mental map of what that animal looks like.

GLEN:  So when you finished that class, did you have any questions about the mechanics of actually doing marine biology as a study and a career?

MAUREEN:  Oh, I had so many.  But I think the only thing I knew at that point is that I wanted to go pursue it in higher ed, and then I would kind of figure out the job aspect after that.  Like I knew there were jobs, but I didn’t know specifically what I wanted to do.  I did have this funny trend, though, where I had – so this is story of the squid.  And it goes like this.

In sixth grade we had to do – we had a marine biology unit.  And we had to make papier-mâché critters, and everybody drew an animal out of the hat.  And I got the giant squid.  And so we had to make a papier-mâché giant squid.  And I had to finish it at home.  And when you do papier-mâché, it’s kind of messy.  You do like the flour, water, and the magazines.  And you mush it all together.  And then we set it out in the backyard to dry.

Well, that evening I had gone over to a friend’s house, and while I’m there I get a call from my mom.  She goes, “Maureen, I have some bad news.”  And I’m like, “Uh-oh, what happened?”  And our Labrador, our 100-pound yellow lab had decided to eat the papier-mâché squid because it had flour.  And I was so upset.  The dog literally ate my homework.  And we had to take pictures with the old Kodak camera and, like, print them out.  And we, like, physically took the pictures to the teacher and was like, look, the dog literally ate the homework.

GLEN:  That’s almost better than the papier-mâché squid, to be able to tell that story.


GLEN:  But probably not at the time.

MAUREEN:  No, not at the time.  I threw like a temper tantrum as a sixth grader and was very upset.  So my parents helped me like remake this squid.  It was the length of two baking sheets.  And we got it done in time for the assignment.  And then again in junior year we had to do a presentation and a report for that marine biology class in high school.  And we drew randomly out of a hat, and I got Phylum Cephalopoda, which means head foot.  And within the Cephalopod family are squid, octopus, and cuttlefish.  So I was like, well, I guess I just have a thing for squids.  So I knew I wanted to study something within a squid and octopus realm.  But I didn’t quite know how to go about that when I was applying for colleges.  But I had this history.

GLEN:  I remember when I heard you speak you talked about an experience on a boat for the first time, at least study-wise.  Where does that fit in?

MAUREEN:  So my junior year of undergrad I did a study abroad.  And this was called Sea Education Association, Sea Semester.  Highly recommend.  And the way this works is the students do five weeks on land at their campus at Falmouth, Massachusetts, near Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute.  And then there are two ships, the Robert C. Seamans and the Corwith Cramer.  And they’re both student sailing vessels.  And then you spend five weeks out at sea where you learn to be a crew member.  You take classes.  And you conduct an undergraduate thesis and produce like an undergraduate paper by the end.  And so that was what I wanted to do for my study abroad experience.

So spring semester of my junior year I headed to Falmouth, Massachusetts with my dad, like a few days after New Year’s.  There was a blizzard.  It was super cold.  So I moved into the dorms with the other students.  We had a class size of I think about 15.  So it was intense because you’re taking classes for eight hours a day, and then you eat dinner, and then you go home and you study.  And you do this for like five days a week.  But we got to take, like, oceanography and nautical science and ocean biology and maritime history and all these awesome classes.  And then you take that, and then you have like a week break.  And then we got to meet the boat in Puerto Rico, which was our port call, and then like sail around the Caribbean.  That was our particular voyage for five weeks.  And we stopped in Antigua, St. Martin, Bequia.  And then our final port stop was St. Croix.

And they treated it like you were a real crew member, so there were three what are called “watches,” with four to five students on each watch.  There was an assistant scientist, a crew member, either the first or second mate, one of the mates.  So you did whatever they said.  And by the end of it, you went from not knowing how a ship worked at all to every student got a chance to be what’s called a “junior watch officer” and run an entire shift of the boat and, like, direct their peers and stuff.  And it was so fun being out at sea.  So we did everything from like lift and lower sails; going down in the engine room and check the gauges; help the cooks in the galley; help out in the lab, in the science room; or, you know, check the weather and get like our longitude and latitude.  There was a lot – there’s a lot of work to do on a boat, and it never ends.

GLEN:  Before you entered into this program, did you declare yourself as being low vision?  Or did you assume I can do it, and it’s not a relevant detail, I’m going to leave it out?

MAUREEN:  No, I declared it.  Actually the boat came to the University of Rhode Island Oceanographic Campus the semester before.  And kind of as a rite of passage to be approved for the program, the dean of the marine biology program wanted me to go see the boat.  So she gave me a pass for the day to, like, miss all my classes.  She was like, “Maureen, I expect you to be at the boat.  I will be at the boat.  You are going to go on a tour with me.”

Little did Dr. Webb know I had been on boats before with my family on like vacation and stuff.  So, for example, when you go down the ladder of a boat, you walk down the ladder with your stomach facing the steps.  Or there are certain ways you can navigate.  And so she watched me the whole time, like, walk around the perimeter of the entire boat.  And then once she felt, like, satisfied, she like went up and was like, “Oh, Maureen, this is the captain, and this is the first mate, and this is so-and-so.  And I highly recommend her for your program.”  And I was like, oh, okay, cool.  I had got approval from the dean of the marine bio program to apply.

GLEN:  I think it’s pretty funny that you have this hidden weapon that you were familiar with boats, and she probably was feeling oh, my god, can a low-vision woman do this safely?  And you of course already had developed your sea legs.

MAUREEN:  Yeah, yeah.  And I think that was her big concern was just the safety aspect; right?

GLEN:  Yeah.

MAUREEN:  But I think people with low vision or even disabilities, we’re pretty good problem solvers.  And I like to think we’re very adaptable and, like, flexible.

GLEN:  What were the mechanics of scuba diving for you? 

MAUREEN:  So the way scuba diving classes work is there’s a written component.  So there’s like a written manual that you do, and we would have like a class once a week in the classroom where we would take quizzes and talk about the material.  And then my pool time was scheduled for Fridays.  So we did five weeks in the pool, where we would learn basic skills like how to put your tank together, how to clear your mask if you get water in it.  One of the things we had to do was hold our breath for an entire length of an Olympic swimming pool.  That one was a little hard.  And like taking the equipment on and off so that for the next five weeks where we did our dives out at the local bay it wasn’t all new.

And so for each dive out at the bay we had a different skill that we would practice so that, if your air supply gets knocked out of your mouth, can you recover it and, like, not be scared.  It’s kind of like practicing first aid; right?  Like if you need to give somebody CPR, like are you trained as a first aid responder, but in this sense like for yourself, for a sense, or for your dive buddy if they need you.  Because that’s the golden rule:  you never go diving alone.  Always rely on your dive buddy.

GLEN:  How much of communicating underwater is visual?

MAUREEN:  A lot of it.  So a lot of it is hand signals.  So there was an extra dive master in the class that I was in.  And so he was kind of like a third tagalong for my dive buddy and I.  And he would kind of help me gauge what I could and could not see.  So he would give me verbal reports after each class as to how I did.  And then we would work together with the dive master to come up with solutions.  But typically we’re so close to the dive buddy that I can see their hand signals.  And if not, I actually read Helen Keller’s biography when I was younger, so I recalled how she would like hold out the palm of her hand and then like sign, the sign language, in the palm of the hand.

And so that’s what my dive buddy and I would do, if I wouldn’t  respond for some reason, and we were in murky water because, I’m sorry, not everywhere is the Caribbean and super clear.  When we’re in, like, the northeast, and it’s winter, it’s going to be a muddy bottom.  So typically if it’s bad visibility we’ll just default to signing our dive signals in each other’s hands.

GLEN:  Is there any technology, high tech or low tech, that helps here?

MAUREEN:  I have a dive computer that is backlit and has a one-inch number display.  The dive computer tells you things like your depth, how long you’ve been under, and most importantly how much air you have left because you do not want to be underwater without enough air.  And your remaining bottom time.  So your dive computer is one of your most – is your second most important piece of equipment next to your regulator which brings air to your mouth from the tank.

GLEN:  What about lab work?

MAUREEN:  One of the biggest challenges for me every day is conserving and maintaining eye fatigue.  So like anything else, your eyes are a muscle.  And I don’t think the general public realizes this as much as maybe the blind and visually impaired population does.  But our eyes work hard every day.  And you need to be smart about how you take care of your vision.  So for me, planning out my day as far as how much time am I spending on a screen or how can I make working on a microscope more accessible or make my tasks more accessible to ease eye strain.  I have a CCTV from Freedom Scientific in the lab, which has been wonderful, not only for my teaching duties, for grading papers and assignments, but I have a lot of samples of tiny microplastics that need to go in tiny vials that all need to be labeled.  And so using the CCTV to write out all of those labels and maintain like a proper sitting posture and not strain my eyes is very important.

And then on the same realm of like using projection of the TV, I have a camera pen from IPEVO, I P E V O.  I’m not sure if they still sell it.  But it has an adapter that goes on the ocular lens of a microscope.  And then you can plug the USB port into a laptop so it will project whatever you’re viewing on the microscope onto a laptop screen.  And that’s not only prove beneficial for me, but my undergraduate research assistants love it because once you get the depth perception and like orientation of working with that down, it saves your neck so much strain and so much eyestrain to have a projection of that microscope image.  And it’s like one of my favorite pieces of technology, both as a researcher and as a teacher.  Because if there’s something I want to point out on a slide to my students, I can project it to the class and say, oh, when you look at a slide of this onion root, this is what you’re looking for.  And then I don’t have to answer the same question 25 times.

GLEN:  Did you have any moments of profound doubt that you had made the right career and education decision?

MAUREEN:  Yes.  During my master’s we have to take an exam called your Comprehensive Exams.  Which for my program was a week of intensive writing.  And it was done over spring break, so I thought, okay, I don’t need accommodations.  I have all spring break off.  It should be enough time.  What it wound up being was four topics, each with two questions and eight prompts.  Well, each prompt was a half a page to a page long.  And you had to use primary literature to answer each one.  And long story short, it was too much for my eyes, and I didn’t finish.  So by virtue of not finishing I had failed the exam to move onto like candidacy.

So I had to have a talk with my committee, take an incomplete for my spring classes, and then for the two weeks in between spring and summer quarter I retook my comprehensive exams with extended time over the course of 14 days where I would have like ample time to take rests and screen breaks from the computer and things like that.  And then turns out with enough time to work on those eight essays I did just fine.  I think emotionally it was difficult because the rest of my class had passed their exams, and then I still had like this looming big goal over my head for the rest of the spring semester. 

GLEN:  It’s got to be a double-edged sword, at least this has been my experience, because you don’t want to ask for accommodations “just cuz,” if you don’t think you’re going to need them.

MAUREEN:  Right. 

GLEN:  But on the other hand, not getting them can really make things go much worse.

MAUREEN:  Yeah.  So I think I’ve always just now erred on the side of asking for more accommodations than needed.  And then if you don’t use them, well, then it’s fine.

GLEN:  Are there things you wish you had known when you started on this path that would have made things easier?

MAUREEN:  Right now I’m a mentor for the Learning Ally College Success Program.  So I talk to students who are in their – currently pursuing their undergraduates who are legally blind or low vision.  And I love it.  And I just wish I had a mentor like that when I was going through undergrad just to vent about like the days when you’re like, man, I can’t drive.  But I wish I had a car because I just really want to go get off campus and, I don’t know, go to the movies today or something.  Like it’s just – there’s something about having that sense of community that’s so important.  And I’ve become more involved in the low-vision blind community actually in grad school than I ever was in undergrad.

And I wish I would have become more involved with those student organizations.  For example, National Federation of the Blind has a student organization, and so does the American Council of the Blind has a student organization.  And I would encourage anybody listening to this, if you’re in college, or if you’re a high schooler thinking about going to college, do it.  Reach out to your peers.  And then secondly, one thing I started doing in grad school that I would encourage everyone to do is don’t be afraid to apply for scholarships because the answer, if you don’t apply for scholarships or grants, is zero dollars.  And you never know.  You might have something to offer or a unique skill set that the scholarship committee might find really interesting.  So don’t be afraid to take opportunities.

GLEN:  Why do you think you suddenly became more interested in being active in blindness organizations once you were in grad school?

MAUREEN:  I think it’s because I, like, had that mental space to think about it.  I wasn’t so hyper focused on grades and classes.  And I had the space to think about, oh, when I was an undergrad, what would I have appreciated as a student with blindness and low vision?  And so that’s when I really started to reach out.  And then secondly I have been fortunate enough to be a recipient of both the, well, three national scholarships:  the American Council of the Blind Scholarship, Council for Citizens with Low Vision International, and the National Federation of the Blind Scholarship.  Different years.  But that has allowed me to attend national conventions for both the American Council of the Blind and for National Federation of the Blind.  And let me tell you, when you attend a convention like that with so many young people who are also blind/low vision and are also just so, oh, the level of passion of these communities is unparalleled.  And making those networks and having that support system is just so important.  And I wish I would have recognized that sooner.

GLEN:  Well, Maureen, thank you very much for joining me.  You’re just as delightful as I remember you being, and you tell some great stories.

MAUREEN:  I’m glad we could finally schedule this.

GLEN:  Yeah.  It was a lot of fun.  Thanks for being with us.

MAUREEN:  Yeah, yeah.  Thank you so much.

Independence Science

GLEN:  Hearing Maureen talk about her science journey as someone with low vision got me thinking about what might be out there for those of us who are totally blind, if we want to participate in science labs.  I’m delighted to say I have the right two people to discuss that.  Representing Independence Science, Dr. Greg Williams, who has a Ph.D. in theoretical chemistry from the University of Cambridge in the U.K., and Ashley Neybert, who just this past December completed her master’s degree in education from Wichita State University, specializing in curriculum design.  Both of them are long-time JAWS users and here to discuss the Independence Science tools and how they integrate with JAWS.  Welcome to both of you.

DR. GREG WILLIAMS:  Thank you.


GLEN:  I must admit that I completely sidestepped high school and college lab work.  I took Honors Science in high school, and for some reason everybody who took Honors Science could opt out of labs.

GREG:  Oh, interesting.

GLEN:  I mean, this was years ago.  This was in the mid-’70s.  And so I never really was confronted with a lab experience.  And I’m curious, what does the curriculum usually consist of, and how much technology is involved?

GREG:  It really depends on the school and on the student.  In a lot of schools it probably has not changed much from when you were in school in the ‘70s.  If they haven’t, do not have access to, you know, equipment like we provide and so on, then the way they interact is still very much the same way.  It’s a lot of working with a partner.  And the blind student is sort of the observer and the notetaker and the person that kind of works through and comes up with answers maybe, but doesn’t do any of the data collection directly; doesn’t, you know, a lot of people are not comfortable with blind students lighting Bunsen burners or things of that nature.  So if the student has not...

ASHLEY:  Which is surprising because it’s really tactile and really easy.

GREG:  It is, yeah.  So if the student has not learned to advocate or doesn’t have a TVI that will help advocate, they still get sidelined and relegated to sort of the passive role in science classes.

GLEN:  And then what is the technology that you guys are working with that make things easier?

ASHLEY:  We also work with a company called Vernier Software & Technology.  And we have a partnership with them.  And so they have hardware that’s used throughout the United States with sighted people.  And they look the same to the teacher, just one of them talks.  And so there’s the Talking LabQuest, which is like a little tablet, and you control it through a keyboard interface.  But it also has the touchscreen available in case anyone has any low vision, or you’re working with lab partners or teachers that want to help out with that.

GLEN:  So is the key to all of this that there are sensors attached, and it’s the sensors that actually provide the info?

ASHLEY:  Yes.  Yeah.  So it’s all connected to the same box or program.  And then there are over a hundred different sensors that can plug into this, everything from Ph to balances, temperature probes.  There’s even this crazy one that I love.  I lovingly call it the “bridge destroyer,” but it’s structure and materials tester.  And you can build a little bridge on it and then see how much tension it can take.

GLEN:  Oh, that’s interesting.  And so when the bridge eventually collapses you will have been able to record what’s happened right immediately preceding that?

ASHLEY:  Yeah, you can record all the data throughout that, and you’ll be able to look through and see each individual data point for how your bridge was doing.  And then you actually built the bridge.  So you can of course pick it up and touch it and be able to see what’s going on, either throughout or at the end when you want to see where did the bridge break and how could you possibly enhance your engineering for the next project.

GLEN:  And what are some of the other sensors?  I’m having trouble envisioning the sorts of experiments that a person would do.

GREG:  You name it, you can do it.  So Vernier has sensors that are geared toward certainly every middle school and high school class and into the college-level setting.  So, for instance, if you were in a physics class, you know, the experiments where you roll the car down the track and measure acceleration, they have photo gates that will track the acceleration.  They have force sensors that will measure the forces that are acting on the car.  In biology you can get sensors to measure CO2 levels, oxygen levels, things for water quality, so salinity, nitrogen content.  Weather, they have wind speed, humidity.  If you want to do physics and electricity, then there’s current, voltage, you know, resistance, et cetera.  So essentially any set of parameters you would need to measure, there’s a sensor that will do it.

ASHLEY:  And it goes up to professional grade sensors, as well.  One of the things we did recently was we worked with some students in Utah with what’s called a “thermocouple.”  So a thermometer, basically, that can measure temperatures in thousands of degrees.  And they set off what’s called the “thermite” reaction.  And yes, of course there was safety and everything with that because it is a reaction where you have powders that are completely inert.  You could throw them, and it won’t hurt anything.  But then when you put them together and add a bit of chemical to it, then it will light off and go to thousands of degrees.  And that’s actually used in making manhole covers and fusing railroad ties.

And we had blind students that were between ages 12 to 21 that were able to complete this safely.  They weighed out all of the measurements themselves.  They packed everything together.  And they lit it off and then analyzed their results using an embosser.  And so the LabQuest can also send off to an embosser and emboss out your data so you can view it.  And then we talked about how that would look compared to an actual textbook result.  And they got pretty textbook results.

GLEN:  I think I’m finally beginning to see this.  So even the process of measuring things out and getting the weight right was done with the help of the LabQuest and one of the sensors?

ASHLEY:  Yes.  And they were able to touch and check out how it was set up before we set it off.  And then we had a volunteer along with a safety coordinator who was able to come up and teach people how to set it off.  And then we made sure that everyone had enough time to get the 32 feet away from the reaction so that you could still feel the heat, and we talked about the smell of it and everything that was going on.  We had an audio describing person that was there.  And so she told us all about the visuals.  And then we were able to hear the temperature readouts as it was going up through the Talking LabQuest, as well.

GLEN:  So how much of the work that you guys do with this equipment is specifically for blind people in an environment like the one you just described, versus how much a blind student is in a regular classroom and you’re trying to come up with ways to allow them to fully participate?

GREG:  So I would say the majority of what we do is working with schools to integrate a student into a class completely.  But we always take advantage of any opportunity to work with the NFB or any other organization that wants to put together workshops for blind students to get them interested in the sciences.

ASHLEY:  A lot of these students come from those schools where their teacher thinks that this isn’t possible.  And they’ve grown up hearing their teachers say that this isn’t possible.  So they don’t know it’s possible, either.  So having those workshops with the blind students allows them to see that there is equipment out there.  And then because the most powerful person in that is the student and the parent in that IEP to be able to tell your teacher, this is what I need in order to succeed, and this is something I’m interested in.

GLEN:  I’m thinking we should perhaps integrate a little bit of a demo with this discussion, and it’ll also make it clear, I think, where JAWS fits into this picture.  Do you think it makes sense to start out with the Talking LabQuest itself?

ASHLEY:  Sure.

GLEN:  Which is the best synthesizer technology that the ‘80s can offer.  It was pretty funny hearing it as we were setting things up.  It’s an old-sounding synthesizer.

GREG:  It’s ESpeak, yeah.

ASHLEY:  Yeah, it’s ESpeak.

GLEN:  Ah.  It doesn’t even sound like ESpeak.  It sounds different than ESpeak on the PC.

ASHLEY:  It’s ESpeak with a British accent, actually, because the British one could pronounce the science terms better than the American one.

GLEN:  Oh, that’s fascinating.  What’s the connection between a student connecting a PC to the LabQuest, either directly or through Tandem?  What does the LabQuest itself say versus what comes through on the PC connection?

GREG:  From the student’s perspective, it’s as though you literally had a USB keyboard connected to the LabQuest and were driving it from there.  So your output, your interaction is going to be exactly the same.  The only difference is that you will get feedback from JAWS as to what key you pressed if you have it set to key echo.

GLEN:  And so this means that if a student is Tandeming in, they need some kind of audio link back to the original machine so that they can hear the LabQuest.

GREG:  That is correct.  So normally it would be Zoom, a Zoom session between the teacher and the student along with the JAWS Tandem connection.

GLEN:  There is also Logger Pro.  What is the difference between that and the standalone LabQuest? 

GREG:  So Logger Pro is a software program from Vernier that is run on a PC, and it allows sensors to be connected directly to the PC and driven and controlled by Logger Pro.  So there it would be exactly what you would expect if you were, you know, let’s say running Word on a PC with JAWS.  So all of your feedback, all of your output comes through JAWS because it’s just simply a computer program that is collecting the data through sensors connected to the PC.  So the difference being that with the LabQuest it’s all portable, and you can move anywhere you want; whereas with Logger Pro your sensors are connected to the PC, and so you have to be where the PC is located.

ASHLEY:  The LabQuest and Logger Pro can work with each other so you can interface them through.  So say you had a deaf-blind student that couldn’t use the Talking LabQuest as well because it doesn’t have that braille output.  You could have somebody who collected data using the Talking LabQuest, and it can be imported into Logger Pro so you can use that braille display.

GLEN:  Ah.  So the difference is you’re looking at it after the fact; whereas when you’re connected directly to the LabQuest, you’re getting real-time results.

ASHLEY:  Right.  And that’s something we’re working on to try to figure out how to make it more deaf-blind accessible, as well, with the LabQuest.  But right now the Logger Pro is what we’ve got.

GLEN:  What can you show us about the LabQuest, just to give a little idea of what that interaction experience is?

ASHLEY:  Okay.  So when I press ENTER on this...

LABQUEST:  System folder.  Preferences folder.

ASHLEY:  And I’m using the laptop keyboard right now.

LABQUEST:  Connection.  The Periodic Table.

ASHLEY:  So I’m arrowing left and right.  And then right now I’m going to say this before I open it because it’s going to start reading it.  I have a temperature sensor plugged into the LabQuest.  And so it’s going to start reading off temperatures in degrees Celsius.  And you can change that to Fahrenheit or Kelvin, whatever you’re working with.  It’s just set by default to Celsius because that’s the scientific unit of measure.  And so it will start reading that out every two seconds.  And I can record that using F3, and so that will get a log of what all happened.

GLEN:  And can you get it to shut up?

ASHLEY:  Yes.  There is a CTRL sort of key for it.

GLEN:  Okay.  I was going to say that could get really old really fast.

GREG:  Mm-hmm.

ASHLEY:  Yes.  And that is why we ask that.

GLEN:  Yes.  Okay.  So why don’t you let it roll for a second here.

ASHLEY:  I am now holding my hand on the temperature sensor so that I can heat up the temperature sensor, and that’s where the data is coming from.

LABQUEST:  LabQuest application.  Sensor gauge.  CH1.  Temperature 25.2 degrees Celsius.

ASHLEY:  I press F3 to start recording.

LABQUEST:  Connection started.

ASHLEY:  And we’ll wait a little bit while we collect our data.

LABQUEST:  26.2.  26.4.  26.5.  26.6.  Connection ended.

GLEN:  At this point you could export this and ultimately bring it into Logger Pro if you wanted to look at the data in a way you could put it in a spreadsheet or something.

ASHLEY:  Correct.  The Talking LabQuest itself also has that you can access through the Tandem link an audiograph sonification, as well as a data table page that you can scroll through, too.

GLEN:  What’s the learning curve for the Talking LabQuest?  Because it’s not a PC, and it probably has slightly different key mappings and so forth.

GREG:  It does, but it’s fairly simple to get up and running.  Now, there’s more sophisticated things that will take a little longer.  But to learn the keystrokes for turning up and down volume, speeding up and slowing down speech, starting and stopping data collection, and getting to the main desktop if you want to switch out of the LabQuest app to something else are both, you know, those all can be taught within 15 to 20 minutes, really.  And then it’s just a matter of gaining more experience with all of the finer details.

GLEN:  I think we should switch to Logger Pro.

ASHLEY:  All right-y.

GLEN:  And that’s going to allow people to see more of the output through JAWS; right?

GREG:  Yes.

ASHLEY:  Yes.  And that is my preference, too, here.  So now we have showing our Logger Pro.  And I have attached to it another temperature sensor.  So we’re just going to do the same demo that we did earlier.  And so I’m going to CTRL+TAB – actually, first I’m going to show that it’s the temperature sensor, so I can hit CTRL+SHIFT+1.

JAWS VOICE:  Go! link: 24 degrees Celsius | temperature.

ASHLEY:  And it tell me I have the go link for the temperature pro.  So I know that that’s the one that I am using.  So I can CTRL+TAB.

JAWS VOICE:  Digital meter temperature, 23.8 degrees Celsius.

ASHLEY:  And it will start reading off.

JAWS VOICE:  23.7 degrees Celsius.

ASHLEY:  And I can hit SPACEBAR.


ASHLEY:  And it will start recording.  And so that sound is for it starting to record.  It’s making a digital graph at the same time.

JAWS VOICE:  23.7 degrees Celsius.  23.9 degrees Celsius.  24.3 degrees Celsius.  24.8 degrees Celsius.  25.3 degrees Celsius.  25.6 degrees Celsius.  25.9 degrees Celsius.  26.3 degrees Celsius.  26.6 degrees Celsius.  27.4 degrees Celsius.  28.2 degrees Celsius.  29.0 degrees Celsius.  29.7 degrees Celsius.  30.1 degrees Celsius.  30.3 degrees Celsius.  30.2 degrees Celsius.  30.0 degrees Celsius.  29.8 degrees Celsius.  29.5 degrees Celsius.  29.3 degrees Celsius.  29.1 degrees Celsius.  28.9 degrees Celsius.  28.6 degrees Celsius.  28.4 degrees Celsius.  28.2 degrees Celsius.  Space.

ASHLEY:  So now I have a table and a graph.

JAWS VOICE:  Table with two columns and 81 rows.  Row 1.  0.0.

ASHLEY:  So this is the time, and versus temperature graph.  So I can go through and figure out, say we want to learn what the temperature was at 8 seconds.  So we can scroll down to 8.

JAWS VOICE:  Row 2, 0.5.  Row 3.  Row 4, 1.5.  Row 5, 2.0.  Row 6, 2.  Row 7, 3.  Row 8.  Row 9, 4.0.  Row 10.  Row 12, 5.5.  Row 15, 7.0.  Row 16.  Row 17, 8.0.

ASHLEY:  And then from 8.0 we can go over RIGHT ARROW and figure out the temperature.

JAWS VOICE:  24.0.

ASHLEY:  24 degrees exactly.  So we can figure that out and be able to go through like that.  And we can also go into our...

JAWS VOICE:  Context menu, File menu.

ASHLEY:  And then go to Accessibility.

JAWS VOICE:  Accessibility submenu Y.  Settings ... S.

ASHLEY:  So there’s an audio trace of the graph.

JAWS VOICE:  Audio trace graph A.

ASHLEY:  So we’re going to play a quick audio trace.  So this is a higher pitched noise for our higher values and a lower pitched noise for our lower values, for those of you who might not be familiar with sonification.


ASHLEY:  So that was a quick audio view of our graph.

GLEN:  As a longtime JAWS user, I’d probably always choose the Logger Pro option.  But I can think of situations where that’s not really practical.

ASHLEY:  Right.  Where that LabQuest is especially helpful is fieldwork.  For example, we have a flow rate sensor.  And so a lot of students will go out to a local river and put, like, wade into the river and put the flow rate sensor in.  And you don’t really want your computer right next to the river.

GLEN:  It’s really cool that the LabQuest is rugged enough that you can take it out to a river and so forth.  Probably not submerge it.

ASHLEY:  Right.

GREG:  Ideally not, no.  But it will survive quite a few bumps and bruises along the way.  So our advice, if you are using Logger Pro in a lab setting, is that you take one of those thick tomes that nobody uses in the lab such as the CRC Handbook of Chemistry or something, and set it next to your lab station with the computer on top of it so that, if there are any spills, they destroy the book and not the computer.

GLEN:  Very good idea.  In this pandemic time, what’s the kind of situation where the Tandem connection has proven most useful?

ASHLEY:  So the Tandem connection is really useful for when your school is closed, but your teacher can go in.  So a teacher can go in and work with a LabQuest and a Tandem connection, or a Logger Pro and a Tandem connection, and be able to work with a student through Zoom and JAWS Tandem to be able to complete their science experiments like they normally would.  Now, the teacher is going to have to do kind of a directed assistant approach in that respect because the student will have to say, okay, I want you to put the temperature probe into the first beaker.  And so there’s a bit more of a directed assistant approach.  But it’s a lot more accessible than a lot of the videos that are currently being gone to with teachers right now, and inaccessible simulations.

GLEN:  And do you find that there are science teachers who are willing to take the time to do this one on one with a blind student?  Because obviously that doesn’t scale well.

ASHLEY:  Absolutely.  Also one of the things that I have seen before is the teacher will Tandem with the blind student.  The blind student directs the experiment while it’s being Zoom broadcast to the entire class.  Then everyone can see that the blind student is the one that is able to do all the laboratory work.  And for once all the sighted people are having to rely on the blind student instead of the other way around.

GLEN:  That’s really cool.  I like this.  If people want more information about what we’ve talked about, how do they get in touch?

GREG:  They can email us at info@independencescience.com, so that’s I N F O @ I N D E P E N D E N C E S C I E N C E .com.  Or they can call us at (866) 862-9665.  And if they wish to reach me, I am extension 3, and Ashley is extension 5.  And they can also go to the website, which is just www.independencescience.com.

GLEN:  Yeah, I kept thinking of it as Independent Science, but it’s Independence Science.

GREG:  It is, yes.

ASHLEY:  Yeah.

GREG:  It’s a great title; however, it is also very confusing to spell.

GLEN:  Yeah.

ASHLEY:  There are so many E’s.

GLEN:  Yes.  And even a couple of silent ones.

GREG:  Yes.

GLEN:  Well, thank you both very much for joining me.  This is exactly what I hoped for and more.  So thanks for both being so interested and so animated.

ASHLEY:  Yeah, no problem.

GREG:  You’re welcome.  Thank you for having us.

Signing Off on FSCast 210

GLEN:  If you’d like to get in touch with the podcast, it’s always great to hear from you.  Ideas for future guests, questions about past episodes, problems that you’re facing that you’ve not been able to answer in other ways, all things fair game, write to me at fscast@vispero.com, fscast@vispero.com.  Thanks for joining me for FSCast 210.  I’m Glen Gordon.  We’ll see you in February.


Transcript by elaine@edigitaltranscription.com





edigitaltranscription.com  •  01/26/2022  •  edigitaltranscription.com