Family Friendly Tech and Advocacy: Tech Psychologist's Guide by Dr. Jeanne Beckman

Family Friendly Tech and Advocacy: Tech Psychologist's Guide   by Dr. Jeanne Beckman
Finally, a book to help families find the right technology to accommodate reading disorders (dyslexia) and other disabilties! ISBN 978-1-60264-089-4

How to purchase my book

To purchase through Virtual Bookworm (my publisher) you can click Virtual Bookworm Publisher: Tech Psychologist's Guide or
Amazon no longer allows Illinois professionals to get credit for referrals to Amazon due to a sales tax dispute. I will be referring to Powell's in the near future.

What is that TinyURL notation that you see in my blog? For those who use a screen reader, the link that is hidden behind words like Tech Psychologist Guide remains hidden. However, screen readers can read aloud the website address, or URL, if it was produced by Also, sometimes these addresses are so long that they wrap around several lines or overlap into colored areas of a website that obscure the actual address. Intrigued? You can create your own tinyurl's at

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Braille music instruction

While in Washington DC for the National Center for Technology Innovation conference, I met Bill McCann, founder and president of Dancing Dots, who designed software that assists visually impaired individuals learn piano and transcribe music into Braille.

Dancing Dots serves blind musicians and their educators through technology and training.

"Where Music Meets Technology for the Blind"

Any sighted musician can scan and edit print notation and convert it to the equivalent braille notation with our GOODFEEL Braille Music Translator. These sighted copyists need not necessarily know braille.

Blind musicians can independently create sound recordings and printed scores with CakeTalking for SONAR and Sibelius Speaking for Sibelius. You can now order our Dancing Dots Accessible Audio and Notation Workstation. We can train you to use any of our technology, more mainstream applications or to learn to read braille music. Here's our reference guide that describes a situation and suggests specific products and resources.

We offer a variety of products including braille music courses, and assistive technology such as JAWS and Duxbury Braille Translator. Dancing Dots can consult with you and supply your needs. We represent the leading manufacturers of assistive technology and music supplies. Find a sound card, MIDI controller or a MIDI interface for your PC. If you can't find what you're looking for just ask and we'll help. If the information above makes little sense to you or you'd just like to see a brief list of our products listed by need, they will assist you with the entire process.

Blind 9-year old musician performs for Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder at international conference

There's no denying music is a large part of Rachel Flowers' life. The 9-year-old from San Bernardino, California is a rhythmic and melodic magnet. Every catchy tune or harmonic sound she encounters gets absorbed through her ears, processed in her mind and translated through her fingertips.

Music might even be in her DNA given that her parents, Jeanie and Daniel, and both sets of grandparents are musically inclined. From the time when she was 2, Rachel has been playing the piano and keyboards.

What separates Rachel from other young inspiring musicians is not that she prefers classical and jazz versus bubblegum bands and American Idols, but the method in which she reads, writes and produces music. Blinded by retinopathy of prematurity as a result of being born 15 weeks early, Rachel relies on assistive technology called CakeTalking for SONAR.

CakeTalking for SONAR contains scripts for JAWS® for Windows and is available solely through Freedom Scientific dealer Dancing Dots. Those who are familiar with JAWS can learn music through customized scripts that allow musicians to perform in conjunction with many mainstream music applications. They can navigate graphical views of musical information and turn their PCs into music studios.

Rachel has been using the program for three years.

"She hears a piece, and her mind is already going," her mother said proudly. "Once she was introduced to computer sequencing, music was a real explosion. She jumped in with both feet. It was amazing to see."

While Rachel has performed in many venues including school talent shows, perhaps her biggest concert came at the 18th Annual CSUN International Conference on Technology and Persons with Disabilities this spring in Los Angeles. She demonstrated SONAR to more than 300 people, sequencing Ray Charles' version of "America the Beautiful" because the famous singer was in attendance along with Stevie Wonder.

Rachel also sang as she played and Jeanie joined in on the microphone for a verse.

"I saw Stevie and thought, 'oh my gosh, I'm singing in front of Stevie Wonder,' " Jeanie said. "But it was Rachel's night."

Rachel was familiar with Ray Charles not only because of "America the Beautiful," but also because of the children's book called "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom," an alphabet book he read on audio cassette. Rachel talked briefly with Ray at CSUN. She also got a chance to tell Stevie Wonder she had a version of his song "As" sequenced, so he sang a verse of it in to her tape recorder.

Rachel's recent brush with greatness was nothing new. When she was 4, Jeanie and Daniel performed at coffee houses and she was usually in the audience. One night, Rachel sat at the piano and started playing Beethoven's "Fur Elise." The store owner was so amazed, he contacted one of his television friends and soon after, Rachel was on the local news - a celebrity in her own right.

Music always has been a part of Rachel's life, whether it was listening to her parents play guitar or hearing a rock 'n' roll song on the radio. She even has an ear for gamelan music, which is a traditional Indonesian instrumental ensemble comprising mainly percussion instruments.

Music also figures to be a part of Rachel's future. Listening to it. Loving it. And thanks to CakeTalking for SONAR and JAWS, learning it and playing it.

"I think that's her life," Jeanie said. "It's what she lives for."

Read her story and more at
or go to the dancingdots website at

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