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ASSIST With Windows Newsletter

ASSIST: Accessible Step-by-Step Instructions for Speech Technology

Spring 2005

Published and Distributed by the Iowa Department for the Blind
524 Fourth Street
Des Moines, IA 50309-2364
(515) 281-1333
(800) 362-2587

Graphic: Section Break

The purpose of Project ASSIST is to provide computer training to individuals who are blind, visually-impaired or deaf-blind. Our training materials address all levels of users, from beginners to advanced users. We have tutorials, keyboard guides and diagrams, and course packets. These materials can be used by individuals who want to learn popular computer programs on their own and by professional trainers for their organization's computer training program. We also offer instructor-led training through our ASSIST Online distance learning program.

We periodically send out a newsletter to update you on our project and the materials and services we offer. We hope that you will contact us with questions or comments about our work and our training efforts.


New Tutorials!

Our tutorials use keyboard instruction and include screen reader specific keystrokes and strategies. Step-by-step exercises provide hands-on experience with the screen reader and desktop program. Here are some of our "just released" tutorials:

You can find a complete list of tutorials, including a table of contents for each, at our web site: Most tutorials cost $35.00 for cassette tape versions or $25.00 for electronic versions. You can order a tutorial by calling Linda at (515) 281-1317 or by contacting her via e-mail at  or


Tactile Keyboard Diagrams

We are pleased to announce the availability of Tactile Keyboard Diagrams. This set of five tactile diagrams is an excellent reference and training tool. The diagrams are tactile representations of a standard 104 key keyboard. The first diagram is of the full keyboard, with each section labeled. The remaining four diagrams are "close ups" of sections of the keyboard with each key labeled. Each diagram is accompanied by a brief description of its contents. The Tactile Keyboard Diagrams can be purchased for $15 per set.


Using Nextalk-VM with a Braille Display

We have been hard at work on our latest tutorial, NexTalk-VM with JAWS 6.0 and the ALVA Satellite 570. NexTalk-VM is communications software used by the deaf to hold "text telephone" conversations with individual TTYs and TTY relay services. When used in conjunction with a screen reader and a refreshable Braille display, NexTalk-VM can provide an effective means of communication for deaf-blind individuals.

In the process of preparing our NexTalk-VM tutorial, we found that some features of the program work better with the screen reader/Braille display combination than others. For instance, the newer versions of Window-Eyes and JAWS track the conversation reliably. Sometimes, however, the focus will get "stuck" in a dialog box. In March, we presented our findings at an international technology conference in Los Angeles, California. As a result of our presentation, we have been given the opportunity to work with the developer of NexTalk-VM, who wants to make improvements to the software in response to our concerns. We are pleased that our work will make a difference.

We anticipate that the tutorial will be available by late summer, 2005. We hope that it, too, will make a difference.


Train the Trainer

Do you provide assistive technology training to blind or visually-impaired individuals? Are you looking for an opportunity to learn new training strategies? Would you like to have access to new training materials? How about making contacts with other trainers to share tips and resources? Project ASSIST's Train the Trainer workshop may be the opportunity you have been waiting for. Best of all, you won't have to leave home or spend money to take advantage of it.

The Train the Trainer workshop has three goals: share strategies, improve computer skills, and teach distance learning training techniques. The workshop runs approximately 12 weeks and is conducted via distance learning. Participants are expected to offer discussion issues and constructive criticism. The workshop and training materials are free.

Interested persons must complete and submit an application. The workshop is open to anyone who is currently employed as an assistive technology trainer in the United States.

You can download an application for ASSIST Online’s Train the Trainer Workshop from our web site at: Instructions for submitting the application are provided with the application materials. If you have a question or are unable to download and complete the application, contact us using the information listed at the end of this newsletter.


Microsoft Office (XP) Specialist Certification Prep

Are you interested in obtaining Microsoft Office (XP) Specialist certification? Project ASSIST offers two ways to help you prepare for the certification exams. First, we offer tutorials, course materials, and test taking tips to help you prepare for the Office (XP) Specialist certification exams on your own.

The second is for those who prefer instructor-led classes and are able to complete class work via distance learning. Our distance learning effort, called ASSIST Online, prepares enrolled students for the Microsoft Office (XP) Specialist certification exams. All courses are instructor led and use keyboard commands, strategies for the JAWS screen-reading software, and information relevant to blind and visually impaired computer users. The online courses are free and are open to blind and visually impaired individuals nationwide. Our next round of courses will begin in June, 2005. While these courses are full, we continually accept applications and begin new courses every 10 to 12 weeks.

To date, twenty-two students have passed one or more certification exam. Indeed, eight students are now one exam away from achieving their Masters certification. We congratulate all of our students on their success!

If you are interested in preparation materials and / or the ASSIST Online distance learning courses, please visit our web site or contact us using the information listed at the end of this newsletter.

If you want to learn more about Microsoft Office Specialist certification and its benefits go to Microsoft's web site at You can find out more about the exams from Certiport's web site at


Project ASSIST at CSUN

In March 2005, Project ASSIST staff presented at the annual "Technology and Persons with Disabilities" international conference sponsored by California State University - Northridge in Los Angeles, CA. This conference is often simply referred to as "CSUN."

Curtis, Laurie, Mike, and Shan discussed our Train the Trainer workshop's goals, format, content, and costs. They provided attendees with a workshop application and a handout with workshop details. They also answered questions about the workshop and about the Microsoft Office Specialist certification exam preparation materials and course.

Brian, Susie, and Laurie Holtry (Iowa Department for the Blind Rehabilitation Technology Specialist) gave a presentation titled "NexTalk-Vm for the Deaf-Blind." The purpose of the presentation was to discuss and demonstrate use of NexTalk-VM with a screen reader and refreshable Braille display. Their aim was to show whether a deaf-blind individual can effectively use this Windows based TTY software.

You can learn more about CSUN's annual conference and review conference presentation materials at


Useful Web Site on Word
The Office Letter site:
The Office Letter web site has tips for Word, Excel, Outlook, PowerPoint, and more. You can review the web site or subscribe to a free Standard Edition newsletter.

AccessWorld Web Site:
This site is maintained by the American Foundation for the Blind. It provides articles on screen reader reviews, cell phone and other product accessibility, etc.

Using the Run Dialog Box
You can quickly open a number of programs from the Run dialog box. First, press Windows Key-R to open the Run dialog box. Next, type any of the following commands:

To open the Notepad program, type: Notepad.
To open the WordPad program, type: WordPad.
To open the Microsoft Word program, type: Winword.
To open the Microsoft Excel program, type: Excel.
To open the Microsoft Access program, type: MSAccess.
To open a drive folder, type the drive letter.

To open an e-mail message, type: mailto: followed by the e-mail address. (Your e-mail program will open, and the focus will be in the Subject field.)

To open a web page, type the URL. (Your Internet browser will open to the web page, if you are connected to the Internet.)

Adding ALT Text
Did you know that you can provide alternative (ALT) text for the images, charts, and other objects you insert into any Office document? To add ALT text, select the object. Then, choose the Object command on the Format menu. (The command name will depend on the type of object you inserted. For instance, the command name will be "Picture" when you have selected a graphic.)

When you choose the Object command, the Format Object dialog box will appear. Use Ctrl-Tab to switch to the Web tabbed page. Then, enter your text description in the Alternative Text edit field.

This feature is available in Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel programs, and the procedure is the same in each.

Set JAWS to Ignore Flash on Web Pages
Many web designers use flash animation on their web pages. If a page has a message such as "Macromedia flash start," an animated film clip is embedded in the web page. These animated clips make the page more interesting; often, however, it causes the JAWS virtual cursor to jump around, making the page difficult and frustrating to read.

You can tell JAWS to ignore flash animation on web pages. If the focus seems to be jumping around the web page for no apparent reason, try checking the Ignore Flash on Web Pages check box.

1. In Internet Explorer, press Insert-F2 to open the Run JAWS Manager dialog box.

2. In the list that appears, use the Down Arrow key to choose the Configuration Manager.

3. With the Configuration Manager open, press Alt-S to open the Set Options menu. Then, press H to choose the HTML Options command.

The HTML Options dialog box opens.

4. Press Control-Shift-Tab to move to the Misc. tabbed page.

5. Press Tab until the Ignore Flash on Web Pages check box is selected. Then, press the Spacebar to check it.

6. Press Tab until the OK button is selected. Then, press Enter to activate the button.

7. Press Ctrl-S to save your changes, and then press Alt-F4 to close Configuration Manager.


Contact Us!

Phone: (515) 281-1317 - Monday through Friday, 8 A.M. to 5 P.M. Central Time.
Fax: (515) 242-5781.

Mailing Address:
Project ASSIST With Windows 
Iowa Department for the Blind 
524 Fourth Street 
Des Moines, IA 50309-2364

Project ASSIST is funded by grants from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR). Grant award numbers H133G020196 and H133A010104.

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