Hey! What is the “PEP”?

The First-Ever BALANCE Summer Pre-Employment Program

Only a few spots left!

You might be curious about this newly designed and innovative program offering from BALANCE. A blog post is a perfect opportunity to describe it.

The Pre-Employment Program is intended to provide young adults who are blind or partially sighted with the tools, resources, and insights necessary to help them to be their own job coaches and developers. As such, this program will be a mix of workshops, one to one assessments, and links to existing resources post program.

Our program participants need to be committed to finding a job, open to feedback, have basic orientation and mobility skills, have basic technology skills and a have attained a basic level of education, such as high school, trade school, or post-secondary education. Space permitting, we will accept those who are currently in school but who are seeking to gain part time or summer employment.

The program is divided into 2 weeks, with week 1 focused on improving orientation and mobility, independent living and assistive technology skills; and week 2 directed towards advanced assistive technology skills, including common software programs for job search, social media uses for workers, and adaptive technology for working as an effective team member.

Program 1:

The objectives of this program are:

  • Gain new or improve upon five employment related skills
  • Learn about five new websites
  • Be connected with at least 5 new community resources (including two local)
  • Be provided with 35 hours of instruction in a small group setting which will allow participants to learn from each other as well as the instructor
  • Be provided with a minimum of 2 hours of individual assessment, feedback and instruction

Content themes:

  • Understanding the job market, how to disclose, networking and more
  • Independent Living skills related to employment such as self-care (dressing professionally), staying organized (time management, virtual calendars and agendas)
  • Personalized assessments in orientation and mobility, independent living, technology and important skills linked to transitioning into work.

 

Program 2:

The objectives of this program are:

  • Learn approximately 10 apps
  • Discover 10 websites
  • Deepen your knowledge of 5 programs
  • Learn about 5 resources
  • Be provided with 35 hours of instruction in a small group setting which will allow participants to learn from each other as well as the instructor
  • Be provided with a minimum of 2 hours of individual assessment, feedback and instruction

Content themes:

  • Useful free resources specifically for the blind and visually impaired; mainstream job search sites and more
  • Social media (creating a social brand, using social media with adaptive tech, using social media)
  • Adaptive technology
  • Time management and organization
  • Microsoft office refresher
  • Problem solving and community access

Our skillful and experienced staff will provide the leadership for this exciting new opportunity, and our expert pre-employment team will also include skilled and bright guest speakers who will provide us with interesting sessions dealing with: everyday coping with challenges, mindfulness training for stress reduction, how to network, and reproducing workplace requirements in order to best prepare for the demands.

If you, or someone you know, is interested in participating in this program, please call Chelsea Mohler at 416-236-1796, ext. 225, or email her at c.mohler@balancefba.org

Wonders of the Apple Watch: Part 2

by Chelsea Mohler, AT Instructor, BALANCE

Who is Siri anyway?

OK, now, I confess, onto my favourite topic—Siri!  Who doesn’t love that personal assistant in your ear giving you reminders, directions, or life advice, ok, maybe not the advice.  I know for me, Siri was one of the major reasons I bothered to purchase any Apple product. Although sometimes Siri can frustrate us to no end, it also comes in really handy—especially when trying to send lengthy texts or call someone from our contacts.  Let’s face it, Siri makes our lives a lot easier!

So, why all this talk about Siri? Well, the Apple Watch incorporates the Siri feature, and as a result, many of the things we are familiar with on our other devices. There are some differences to be aware of, though, so let’s take a look at those.

Siri on the Apple Watch

The most noticeable difference is that Siri doesn’t speak as he/she does on iOS devices. Instead the response appears on the screen of the watch and the wearer either drags their finger around to have the VoiceOver voice read the content or uses Digital Crown Navigation to do so. This may at first seem a bit odd, but in actual fact you don’t even notice once you’ve got used to it. As the wearer is going to have raised their wrist to use Siri in the first place it’s not a great stretch to using your finger or the Digital Crown to read the screen once Siri responds. As with most new things it’s worth spending some time getting used to the slightly different functionality of the Apple Watch, you will certainly find that it is well worth it.

How to use Siri on the Apple Watch

Now, you might be wondering how to use Siri on the Apple watch.  Well, there are a couple of ways to use Siri on the Apple Watch. The first is to tap the screen once to wake the watch up, raise your wrist and say “Hey Siri.” Time for another confession—that’s my all time favourite approach, unless, of course, you are in a loud space where the watch may not pick up your voice. The second way to activate Siri is to press and hold the Digital Crown before giving Siri an instruction or asking it a question. In both cases and assuming that you have haptic feedback enabled on your Apple Watch, you will feel two taps in quick succession on your wrist when Siri is awake and ready to receive instructions/questions. Then, go on ahead and speak your command to Siri!

Wonders of the Apple Watch, Part 1

by Chelsea Mohler, AT Instructor, BALANCE

Apple Watch-What’s not to love?

In addition to the iPhone, iPad, and Macbook, Apple has an Apple watch, and I have just recently purchased one because I was curious what all the fuss was about!  So, I should start by saying I have the Apple Watch Gen one, which is most certainly  not water-proof, but if I like it, I’ll upgrade to the Gen two.  There are way too many cool features to discuss in one blog, so I’ll start by covering the basics and leave the rest for another entry!

I love tools and gadgets, and I love accessible gadgets the most. Since I have a visual impairment, I’m used to having to wait around for the “special” stuff. So, the things I love the most are mainstream gadgets that come out of the box being accessible.

Now that I’ve had my Apple Watch, the Gen One, for a couple of days, I hope I can clear up some of your first-day questions.  First thing’s first, if you have just purchased the watch, you will need to pair it with your iPhone.  This means getting the phone and the watch to talk to one another and play nicey!  It seems difficult, yes, but this process actually can be done completely without vision.  I won’t rewrite how to pair the watch because the

How to Set up Your New Apple Watch – A Comprehensive Guide

is first rate and does a very thorough job.

before we can go too much further, we need to ensure VoiceOver is turned on on the watch.  If it is already on from when you paired the watch, this is still a good review for future.  Turn on Voiceover.  On Apple Watch, open the Settings app , then turn on General > Accessibility > VoiceOver. You can also use iPhone to turn on VoiceOver for Apple Watch—open the Apple Watch app on iPhone, tap My Watch, then tap the VoiceOver option in General > Accessibility. Or, use the Accessibility Shortcut. See The Accessibility Shortcut. And there’s always Siri:

Ask Siri. “Turn VoiceOver on.”

OK, once the watch is paired and Voiceovr is set up, it is time to explore the screen. Move your finger around on the display and listen as the name of each item you touch is spoken. You can also tap with one finger to select an item, or swipe left or right with one finger to select an adjacent item.

Gone down a path you didn’t expect? Do a two-finger scrub: use two fingers to trace a “z” shape on the display.

Act on an item. With VoiceOver on, use a double tap instead of a single tap to open an app, switch an option, or perform any action that would normally be done with a tap. Select an app icon or option switch by tapping it or swiping to it, then double-tap to perform its action. For example, to turn VoiceOver off, select the VoiceOver button, then double-tap anywhere on the display.

Pausing Voiceover

Let’s say you are in the middle of a e-mail or text and you want to pause Voiceover from reading. To have VoiceOver stop reading, tap the display with two fingers. Tap again with two fingers to resume.

Adjust VoiceOver volume. Double-tap and hold with two fingers, then slide up or down. Or, open the Apple Watch app on iPhone, tap My Watch, then go to General > Accessibility > VoiceOver and drag the slider.

Adjust reading rate. Open the Apple Watch app on iPhone, tap My Watch, then go to General > Accessibility > VoiceOver and drag the slider.

Want to save battery and have the information on your watch kept private?  Well, you can turn on the screen curtain by opening the Settings app on Apple Watch, then turn on General > Accessibility > VoiceOver and turn on Screen Curtain.

Want your watch to be able to be used by a sighted peer?  Simply turn off Voiceover by opening the settings Settings app , go to General > Accessibility > VoiceOver, then tap the VoiceOver button.

Ask Siri. “Turn VoiceOver off.”