March 2017: When to Use a Lab Partner vs LabQuest

Contributed by Robert Jaquiss
Editor of Independence Science Newsletter

When to use A Lab Partner versus when to use the Talking LabQuest

One of the nice things we have today is numerous digital technologies we can use in the science laboratory classroom. We also have older more traditional tools. The older tools refer to a student with a print disability working with a non-disabled counterpart. That person serves as the eyes of the student with a disability. They are to function similar to that of a tool. The student with a disability directs that person to perform specific tasks, read information off of display screens, and record data and observations when instructed. This person is not there to simply perform the experiment for the student with a disability. This mindset can be difficult to separate from both the student and the teacher’s perspective.

One of our main concerns is that the student with a disability has a safe learning experience. What better way to achieve this than to provide them with a non-disabled counterpart to perform the experiment for them. However, in the interest of most successful more engaging results, the student with a disability needs to be as engaged in the laboratory activity both cognitively and also physically.

Now the use of the Talking LabQuest (TLQ) can be a nice compliment to this tool. There is a misconception in the world today that indicates the Talking LabQuest can make the science lab fully accessible. In some cases, yes this is true. However, much scientific observation is still dependent on visual observation. The TLQ does provide a way for a print disabled student to perform laboratory tasks and obtain quantifiable data for analysis. It can in some cases also provide indications as to what to do next in an experiment depending on the activity in question. The TLQ can be shared with laboratory partners as well as laboratory assistants. It is very important for the student with a print disability to be fully aware of the capabilities of the TLQ and to feel comfortable with its operation. They should also know when it can be used successfully and when it would be more prudent to work with a lab assistant or group partner. Further, the student with a print disability should be willing to delegate tasks that are not technologically accomplishable easily with either a TLQ or a lab assistant.

In the end, knowing when versus when not to perform a task is equally important. Also, students with print disabilities should still be responsible for their own data analysis and be expected to engage with lab group partners on such discussions. Additional complimentary products such as a raised line drawing tool and/or graphics enabled Braille embosser can help with computer generated Cartesian graphs embossed from either LoggerPro or Microsoft Excel.

All of these tools can be used in a synergistic way to make a hands-on learning experience in the science laboratory possible. As new technologies become available, this model of laboratory access will be amended as time passes. Fortunately science education is a dynamic profession always changing with technology. Therefore, the way we perform science experiments today will likely be different in the future. We at Independence Science encourage our readers to keep helping us to shift the societal paradigm in a positive direction that promotes more hands-on science learning experiences for all students. It is this approach at full inclusion that will make the STEM workforce more diverse and inclusive of all.

February 2017: Black History Month or Thoughts On Access Technology

Contributed by Robert Jaquiss
Editor of Independence Science Newsletter

Now that we have entered well into the Twenty-First Century, access technologies are starting to evolve at an exponential rate. Never before have we seen such innovative new technologies providing access to books, the Internet, household appliances, and much more. To that end, we are now entering what I would consider being a golden age of access for the blind and visually impaired. In particular in the area of science access, we are reaching a period in our history that is evolving itself to be a renaissance period in science education.

The Sci-Voice Talking LabQuest products are providing more opportunities than ever before for the blind to be more fully engaged in the science laboratory in a hands-on way. To that end, we at Independence Science acknowledge that much more work is still necessary before the blind can have full access in science and other STEM related subject areas. To that end, it is important for us to recognize the value of the benefits of our access technologies while acknowledging its limitations. There is a mindset in today’s society that indicates we want everything to be accessible now. This is normally what should be done, however the reality is we are not there yet. Therefore, it is important for us to understand fully what our access technologies can do versus what they can’t. Then the responsibility then falls on us to determine how to make up for the technological gap that exists between what we are able to do versus what we need to do. These technology gaps need to be analyzed from a problem solving approach and to trouble shoot both low and high tech solutions to providing access. Some of these access solutions may involve simply using Braille and tactile marked rulers to using notched syringes to measure volumes. The nature of the task to be performed determines the scope of the solution that is needed. For example, the Sci-Voice Talking LabQuest has proven itself to be a very powerful tool in K-12 education science classes and first and second year college science courses. However, when it comes to upper level college courses and some advanced placement courses, it has never been tested in these environments. This is not to say it would not work in these environments which is certainly not the case. However, how this technology is to be applied needs to be determined by the end user. In lab activities where temperature, mass, and pH measurements are necessary, it is pretty straight forward as to what needs to be done. However, when a lab activity requires a piece of equipment to be built as part of the lab procedure, these manipulations must be made by the end user likely as part of a lab group. To that end, there will be some tasks that are easily performed by the student with the visual impairment while other tasks may not be so easily accomplished. Therefore, it is very important for the end user of the TLQ to recognize what can be done and what cannot. These tasks can then be delegated to other members of the lab group. Sometimes recognizing what the TLQ can do versus what it cannot do is equally valuable and can enhance the student with a visual impairments hands-on learning experience.

The goal of Independence Science is to empower the blind to be as engaged as is possible with today’s technologies. We acknowledge more work is necessary before more independent access can be granted to the blind. This is our commitment to you the customer to share with us successes and failures with our products and services. We encourage you to share your stories with us by e-mailing them to The stories that you share will be a valuable contribution to current and future customers of Independence Science. Your name will be attributed to your contribution, unless you explicitly say you would not like it disclosed. Your article will then be listed as being received from an anonymous author. We at Independence Science are looking forward to hearing from you are most valuable customers.

Independence Science would like to thank you for your support and your commitment to making science more accessible to the blind and the print disabled around the world.


Contributed by Robert Jaquiss
Editor of Independence Science Newsletter

The 2017 Independence Science, Learning a New Direction, Conference on Disability is coming up this fall. We are now requesting abstract submissions from possible presenters. The ISLAND conference will be held on Friday, September 15, 2017 at the Kurz Purdue Technology Center located at 1281 Win Henschel Blvd in West Lafayette, Indiana 47906. The conference will begin at 8:00 AM with continental breakfast and conclude by or before 5:00 PM. Presentations are estimated to be 30 minutes in length with time for discussion following each presentation. Please submit a title of no more than 20 words and an abstract containing no more than 150 words to Cary Supalo, conference chair at by or before March 1, 2017. We will start the review process on March 1, 2017. Please also include all authors and their organization affiliations in the document. Presenters will be notified if their presentation was accepted by or before June 15, 2017. All presenters are expected to register for the conference. Early bird registration concludes September 1, 2017 and will be available through the Independence Science website soon. A block of rooms has been reserved at the 4-Points by Sheraton located at: 1600 Cumberland Ave, West Lafayette, Indiana 47906: phone- 765-463-5511. When booking your room reservation, please ask for the ISLAND2017 rate. Ground transportation from the Indianapolis, Indiana airport is being provided by Lafayette Limo. For reservations, please call 765-497-3828 or book on-line at Round trip reservations currently cost $50 per person. The Lafayette Limo departs from the Ground Transportation center zone 5 every 2 hours starting at 6:30 AM until 10:30 PM daily. Please check in with the Lafayette Limo booth located in the Ground Transportation area to let them know you are waiting for the next shuttle. The Lafayette Limo will drop you off at the 4-Points by Sheraton. The 4-Points offers a curtesy shuttle to Purdue University buildings. Request the evening before that you would like to go to the Kurz Purdue Technology Center or (KPTC) for the ISLAND conference. We are looking forward to your presentation submissions to the 2017 ISLAND conference. Please do not hesitate to contact Cary Supalo for any questions.

August 2016: Quadrilineal meeting WBU

Contributed by Robert Jaquiss
Editor of Independence Science Newsletter

2016 Summer University

     In July 2016, the Summer University was held in conjunction with the ICCHP conference International Conference for Computers Helping People. It was held in Linz, Austria at the Johannes Kepler University Linz. At this conference attendees learned the essential skills necessary to be a blind STEM professional. Currently, the United States lacks these types of comprehensive training opportunities. Although enrichment programs are helpful in building interest, they do not provide the essential skills necessary to empower a totally blind person to become a STEM professional. More programming like Summer University is necessary to help build a community of blind STEM professionals. As part of this conference, the Sci-Voice Talking LabQuest2 was demonstrated to participants from seven different countries. These included New Zealand, Austria, Netherlands, France, India, Czech Republic, and Germany.

     Independence Science would like to thank the organizers and participants of the Summer University, and we hope this most valuable resource will continue being available into the foreseeable future.

July 2016: Independence Science Recognizes the 2016 NFB Scholarship Class

Contributed by Robert Jaquiss
Editor of Independence Science Newsletter

Independence Science recognizes the 2016 NFB scholarship class for outstanding academic excellence and commitment to their studies. It is with this recognition that Independence Science provides financial support for each winner to purchase a new Sci-Voice Talking LabQuest2 scientific data logger to assist with their studies. Congratulations to the 2016 NFB scholarship class for academic excellence.

Jun 2016: Dr. Supalo Visits the Whitehouse

Contributed by Robert Jaquiss
Editor of Independence Science Newsletter

On Thursday, May 19, 2016, Dr. Cary Supalo, President of Independence Science was invited to Washington D.C. to attend the National Medal of Honor in Science and Technology Innovation at the Whitehouse. This historic event recognized scientists and technology innovators who have made significant contributions to their field. Although Dr. Supalo did not receive a medal of honor, it was still a great honor to be invited by the President to attend. This recognition was given for the work that Independence Science is engaged in for making Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) subject areas more accessible to students who are blind in a hands-on way. Dr. Supalo was deeply honored to have been given this opportunity to attend and be recognized in this way.

May 2016: Designing, building circuits and Robotics

Contributed by Robert Jaquiss
Editor of Independence Science Newsletter

Recently, their was discussion on the Program-l mailing list about how blind people could build electronic devices. Here is a summary of the information.

Many years ago in the #50’s and #60’s, it was possible to purchase kits to build electronic devices. Heathkit was an example of a company from which kits for building tube testers, TVs, signal Generators etc. could be purchased. Allied Electornics was another company that offered kits for learning about electronics. A twenty in one kit for example consisted of a Massonite board on which were mounted capacitors, resistors, transistors and other components. The builder used spring clips to connect these components and could build a radio receiver, radio transmitter, intercom etc. My father glued braille numbers to the board and put beads of solder on the wires so they stayed in the string clips more reliably. With brailled instructions, I could build various circuits.

Fast forward to today. Elenco offers Snap Circuits. These consist of a large plastic board with knobs protruding from it. Components are mounted on plastic pieces that snap to the board. The snaps are metal so components can be snapped to each other and or connected with jumpers. The result is a stable assembly. Snap Circuits can be used by students eight and up. In a college physics lab, they are being used to set up circuits for physics labs.

From 1980 to 1998, Smith-Kettlewell published on a quarterly basis, the Smith-Kettlewell Technical file. The Technical file contains an assortment of articles on circuits, building specialized equipment and even a seven article series explaining how a blind person can solder. For more information and to read the issues see the link:

Quorum is a relatively new programming language. Initially designed to be accessible with screen readers, Quorum is gaining acceptance as a general purpose language. For anyone wanting to try computer programming, Quorum is a good place to begin. See the link: Quorum also can be used with the Lego® EV3 Mindstorms robot.

See the link:

If you want to use a Raspberry Pi with your Lego robot, see the site:

For anyone interested in building with Arduino boards, see the Blind Arduino Blog site:

April 2016: CSUN

Contributed by Robert Jaquiss
Editor of Independence Science Newsletter

This year at CSUN has been called, “The year of Braille.” CSUN certainly lived up to the title. I was at the American Thermoform Corporation (atc) booths showing the Braillo 650sf embosser. CSUN was the U. S. debut for this large roll fed embosser. The 650sf can produce braille at a rate of 1,900 pages of braille per hour. The 650sf produces ready-to-go magazine style booklets. Covers are added and the booklet is stapled and folded.

     At another booth was a French company showing a Windows 10 tablet incorporating a braille display and touch surface marked with depressions so the user can activate various Windows 10 functions.

     National Braille Press showed the Braille2Go, an Android based notetaker with a 20 cell braille display.

     Humanware showed their new Android based notetaker. The new BrailleNote has a braille keyboard that lifts up revealing a touch sensitive surface.

     Cassio showed a new printer and special media for producing tactile graphics.

     ViewPlus showed their new Columbia embosser. The Columbia is intended to create braille text as well as tactile graphics.

     There was so much to see and not enough time. In my opinion, if you are considering new equipment, always try it out before making a purchase. It would take a full day to look at all the exhibits. Then there are the presentations…

March 2016: Lewis Diagrams

Contributed by Robert Jaquiss
Editor of Independence Science Newsletter

Lewis diagrams are used to describe the bonds between atoms within a molecule. The following suggestions summarize some recent email discussion and may help those students who need to create Lewis diagrams as part of their school work:

·       A molecular model kit can be used. A Google search for the terms molecular model kit will yield a variety of kits. Some kits can be purchased from and sometimes Independence Science recommends the Molymod kits. A variety of student and Molymod teacher kits can be ordered from The Molymod site is:

·       Found objects such as paper wads and sticky notes.

·       The well known craft stores, Hobby Lobby and Michaels carry Styrofoam balls, pipe cleaners, sticks and many other neat items.

·       Don’t forget toy stores and construction toys. If you use magnets, a steel baking sheet works well for holding your creation in place.·       MolInsight is a site containing software for working with molecular structures. See: for more details.

February 2016: The National Federation of the Blind in Washington DC

Contributed by Robert Jaquiss
Editor of Independence Science Newsletter

     Members of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) were in Washington DC last week meeting the members and staff of the 114th congress. Two of the four legislative issues for which the NFB seeks legislation on are below. The complete legislative agenda and fact sheets can be found on The following is excerpted from the NFB legislative agenda.

·       The Accessible Instructional Materials in Higher Education (AIM HE). Act Electronic instructional materials have replaced traditional methods of learning in postsecondary education, but the overwhelming majority of eBooks, courseware, web content, and other technologies are inaccessible to students with print disabilities. The law requires equal access in the classroom but fails to provide direction to schools for the way it applies to technology. AIM HE creates voluntary accessibility guidelines for educational technology to improve blind students’ access to course material, stimulate the market, and reduce litigation for schools.

·       The Marrakesh Treaty to Facilitate Access to Published Works for Persons Who Are Blind, Visually Impaired, or Otherwise Print Disabled. Despite the ability to convert print books into accessible formats like Braille, large print, audio, and digital copies, millions of blind and otherwise print-disabled Americans are excluded from accessing 95 percent of published works. The Marrakesh Treaty calls for contracting parties to provide in their national copyright laws for a limitation or exception that allows for the reproduction, distribution, and cross-border exchange of accessible works.