Flashcards for Non-Sighted (Visually Impaired) Users

Shodor has developed a Java Program called Braille Flash Cards. This program is used to help sighted and non-sighted people learn how to use Braille efficiently. The steps below will aid in accessing the program and running it. The program and an icon will be installed on your computer.
  1. To get to the program, use your browser and go to www.brl.org. This is Shodor's online braille website.
  2. Scroll or tab down until you get to the link "Flashcards". Click the link and note the features offered by each version of the flashcard program. Proceed to the "Braille Flashcards for non-sighted users" link and click the link.
  3. Read the information on the page carefully, for it contains the Hot Keys for the Braille applications as well as the File input/output and application key commands. After reading these, scroll or tab down to the "Launch Braille flashcards" link. The program and an icon will be placed on your computer.
  4. Click or press "enter" on the "launch flashcard" link. If you are using the Firefox web browser, a window will appear with a choice to open or save the program. Choose "Open" and press Enter or Spacebar. Another window may appear and ask if you trust the certificate. Select "Trust Certificate" and the flashcard file will open. When the screenreader announces "Edit, type in text.", the program is ready to use. The program and an icon will be placed on your computer desktop for launch at a later time.

    NOTE: Each time you download the flashcard program from our site, you will get the latest available version. It will overwrite any older versions that you may have on your computer.

  5. The Non-Sighted Flashcard program will have the following default settings.
  6. To change the "grade level" setting, press "Alt-g" or "&" to open the edit field. Type in "1" or "u" for grade 1 or uncontracted braille; type in "2" or "c" for grade 2 or contracted braille.
  7. To change the "word length" setting, press "Alt-L" or "#" to open the edit field. Type in a number from 5 to 12 to represent the maximum number of characters that a word may contain.
  8. To start the program, press the "Tab" key followed by the "Shift-Tab" keys to focus the cursor at the beginning of the new word edit field.

    NOTE: if for some reason you get lost in the flashcard program by hitting the wrong key or key sequence, tab to an edit field which announces as "Edit, type in text.", and press Alt-n or +. This will return the program to the new word edit field.

  9. Press "Alt-n" or "+". Dot formations will appear in the edit field. Your screen reader should read the dot pattern. To repeat the dot pattern before answering, press the "Down Arrow" key. To answer the question press "Alt-a" or "*" and type your answer in the text box. Press enter and you will hear a voice saying that your answer is either correct or incorrect. To try the same word again, press "Alt-d" or "%". The pattern will be repeated. Press "Alt-a" or "*" to type in your answer again and press "Enter". If you cannot guess the correct word, you can get a hint of the word by pressing "Alt-w" or "$". The word will be announced by your screenreader.
  10. Press "Alt-n" or "+" to go to the next word.
  11. To use a word of your choosing, press "Alt-s" or "^", type in the word, and press Enter. The braille dot pattern for the word will be read by your screenreader.
  12. Listed below is the command summary for the non-sighted braille flashcard program.

    NOTE: The following steps make use of the flashcard program's versatility, and are optional.

  13. You can personalize, save, and recall the settings used by the flashcard program. This feature is handy when more than one person uses the same computer. This feature allows individuals with different Braille skill levels to customize the flashcard program to their specific needs. Use the navigation keys to select the dictionaries, grade level, and maximum word length that you desire (The correct and incorrect sound files will not be affected). To save your settings, press Alt-u or > to open a dialog box. Type in the path and filename for the settings file. You do not need to type in the file extension ".flc"; the program will add it. You can setup and save several settings or configurations in the same manner as long as you use a unique filename for each setting. To recall the settings file, press Alt-y or < and type in the path and filename. The next time the application is run, the last saved settings is loaded unless the settings file has since been deleted.
  14. To input custom sounds for the "Correct" and "Incorrect" responses from our recorded list, go back to the non-sighted flashcard website (steps 1 and 2) and select "click here" to download "Correct" and "Incorrect" sound files. Right click on the file that you want. Select "Save Link As" or "Save Target As" from the pop-up menu, type in the path and filename, and press Enter to load the file onto your computer. The file should download to your computer. Return to the list and download other files as desired. Remember the filenames and paths. (You may be able to preview the sound file prior to downloading it if you highlight the file and press Enter. This may not work on some computers, depending upon the browser and media player used. You should be able to successfully preview the sound files once they have been loaded onto your computer.) To load the "Correct" audio file from your computer, press "{" and a window will open and allow you to type in the path and filename. To load the "Incorrect" sound file, press "}". A window will appear and allow you to add the sound file by typing in the path and filename. (Please note that loading custom sound files is unreliable when run under Mac OSX.) You can make your own custom sound files by using an inexpensive digital voice recorder. The sound files must be in *.wav format, where * is the filename. You can use converting software to convert sound files from wma format to wav format.
  15. If you would like to download the sample dictionaries, go back to the non-sighted flashcard website mentioned in steps 1 and 2. Tab down until you see "example grade 1 dictionary" link. Click on the link. The sample dictionary words should appear. Select "File", and then select "Save As" from the File menu. Type in an appropriate path and filename and press Enter to load the grade 1 sample dictionary onto your computer. Select "File", and then select "Exit" to return to the flashcard webpage. Download the Sample Grade 2 dictionary in like manner. To install the dictionaries into the flashcard program press "Alt-1", or "(", find the grade 1 dictionary on your hard drive, select it or type in the path and filename, and select OK or press Enter. To install the grade 2 dictionary, press "Alt-2", or ")", find the grade 2 dictionary on your hard drive, select it, and select OK or type in the path and file name and press Enter.

    You can also create your own custom word libraries for Uncontracted (Grade 1) and Contracted (Grade 2) Braille by using a text editor. The files must be in *.txt format, where * is the filename. This feature allows you to create study words that may be subject oriented such as math, history, engineering, or health care, or level oriented for children, youth, adults, or professionals. The words selected do not necessarily need to possess a common theme. Multiple libraries can be created, saved, and reloaded for use later.

    Use the sample dictionaries as a template. You do not have to include the numbers for the dot patterns, but each word must be on its own line. All you need is a list of words with 12 or fewer and five or more letters; the program will do the rest. Enjoy!

Ron Broadnax (rbroadnax@shodor.org)
November 17, 2009