About Amber Bobnar

Amber Bobnar lives with her husband and son in Watertown, MA. Originally hailing from Hawaii, Amber and her family moved to Watertown to be closer to the Perkins School for the Blind where her son attends preschool. She has a Master’s degree in English from Tufts University and spends most of her "free time" writing about being a parent of a disabled child on WonderBaby.org. But really most of her time is spent caring for and playing with her little boy.

What’s in a Name?

A lot, actually, especially if you are trying to come up with a name for a new program or website. You want people to “get it” as soon as they hear it. And you want it to be easy to say (or type).

Earlier this year National Braille Press asked me to serve as a consultant on their new program for children.

“What’s the program about?” I asked.

They told me it’s a free, online resource offering accessible, multi-sensory activities for parents and teachers to help them bring picture books to life for their kids. There’s advice on how to describe pictures in books, how to explain colors to kids who are totally blind, and lots of ideas for ways to experience the intangible concepts in books, which can be particularly difficult for kids who are blind.

“Wow! That’s amazing! I’m definitely on board! What’s the program called?”

Well, that hadn’t been decided yet. Diane Croft, Publisher & Creative Producer at NBP, told me they were using a place-holder name: “Great Expectations.”

I didn’t love it (partly because it made me think of Charles Dickens and top hats), but it worked for the time being. Plus part of the fun was going to be coming up with a name and thinking about how to present this program!

We met with the brilliantly talented team at FableVision Studios, a transmedia development studio, to brainstorm and came up with a list of questions the program’s branding needed to answer. What is the message? What is the vision of the program? What are we trying to say?

We had some ideas based on the building blocks of what we already knew. We’re trying to make picture books more accessible. We also want families to understand that just because their child is blind doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy picture books. With the right motivation and adaptations, this is possible!

Our whiteboard looked something like this (only messier):

  • Picture the Possible
  • Picture Power
  • PicturePlay
  • The Whole Story
  • Touching Pictures
  • The Big Picture
  • Get the Picture
  • In Touch
  • Imagine Stories
  • Sensing Stories
  • Reading on the Move

It all felt so close… but not quite there. Picture the Possible and The Whole Story were frontrunners.

FableVision made up some really magnificent artwork to accompany the brainstorming process:

Picture the Possible sketch of a girl and her cat on a flying book     The Whole Story sketch of a girl sitting on a large book at a farm

And that’s when it hit me. It’s all about expecting more… more for our kids and from ourselves as parents and educators. Our children have the right to access literacy in the format that suites them best, but we can’t stop there. They also have the right to imagine and enjoy reading. They have the right to fall in love with a story or a character, to play out their own alternative endings, and to experience the words in the book in real, tangible ways. We need to help them learn how to get the most of books and we need to expect that this can happen.

We need to have Great Expectations!Great Expectations logo of a girl and her dog on a flying book

It’s not about Charles Dickens or top hats… it’s about attitude!

And that is the short version of the long story of how Great Expectations got its name.

Now I love the name!

Amber Bobnar lives with her husband and nine-year-old son, Ivan, in Watertown, MA, where Ivan, who was born blind and multiply disabled, attends the Lower School at Perkins School for the Blind. Amber is founder and website administrator of WonderBaby.org, a website dedicated to supporting parents and caregivers of children who are blind or visually impaired, with or without additional disabilities.

An iPad Book Giveaway: Because We Can All Use the Help!

iOS Success by Larry L. Lewis, Jr.

iOS Success by Larry L. Lewis, Jr.

A question I hear a lot is: “I finally bought an iPad for my visually impaired daughter! Now what?”

Parents of children who are visually impaired know that iPads are being used in schools or by their kids’ TVIs. But that doesn’t mean they know what to do with an iPad after it comes out of the box!

I was in this position, too. I am “Mom” to the sweetest and cutest little boy, Ivan. Ivan is eight years old and was born blind and multiply disabled. I had an iPad, and I knew it was supposed to be “good” for my son. Now what? I didn’t even know where to start!

That’s when I wished for a guide like iOS Success: Making the iPad Accessible. Larry Lewis’s new book is designed specifically for parents and teachers and takes you step-by-step through iPad basics. He shows you how to set up your iPad and get the most out of the accessibility features. As a blind iPad user himself, he absolutely knows what he’s talking about and (best of all) he writes in a clear and tech-free language that is easy to follow!

Ivan and mom playing with their iPad.

Ivan and mom playing with their iPad.

Larry’s book starts at the beginning (he actually writes about taking the iPad out of the box and what you can expect to find in the box) and works up to much more complicated features (like connecting the iPad to a refreshable braille device or using the iPad as a word processor). And because the book is so easy to follow, it’s pretty simple to skip ahead or jump back based on your own comfort with the iPad and what you need to know.

I would say this book is a must-read for any teacher or parent planning to work on an iPad with a child who is blind. To enter to win a free print copy of the book, visit the iOS Success Giveaway Page and enter your name in the drawing. The contest will run until July 20th at midnight.

Amber Bobnar runs the WonderBaby.org website, a support and information site for parents of children who are visually impaired.