The Newest Country With An Ability Guidebook!!! Croatia!!!

There is nothing I like more than adding another country to the list of places with Ability Guidebooks!  This is my Tenth country!  If you know anyone who speaks Croatian, I need a translator!

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I Am Going To Walk the Walls of Old Dubrovnik  (As a PDF )


Brett Bigham is the 2014 Oregon State Teacher of the Year and the President or ORSTOY, the Oregon Chapter of National Network of State Teachers of the Year.

The To-Do List

If you saw my “to do” list it would make your toes curl. From “replacing the front porch” to “reclaiming the back yard” plus a thousand other little things to do on our 1915 house. Three years ago I was stepping into my role as Teacher of the Year. It was like stepping out my front door into a tornado and life has never been the same. That role created a “to do” list that is still beyond comprehension and is one of those things that will never be completed. As one thing disappears of the top of the list, two, or three or ten things have already appeared at the bottom of the list.

Imagine, if you will, you are a respected voice for a group you care about. For me there are three groups–people with special needs have me as their champion, lgbtq kids have me fighting in their corner and every day I represent teachers. When you have been given the honors I have it means your voice will be heard if you speak up. Those voices of the kids I teach and the kids I represent will be heard. It is hard to rest when your actions and words can make a difference.

That’s where my life has taken me. During the Fall I wrote three essays for national publication (I still can’t use “blog”…in my day an essay was an essay). For Microsoft Education I wrote a piece about access and opening doors for people with autism. For the Oregon Education Association Magazine I wrote about meeting Dr. Stephen Hawking and how he had a message for my students who use wheelchairs and speaking devices. I completed an essay for a book about supporting lgbtq youth, wrote a guest editorial for the Oregonian and the Bad Ass Teachers Association published my keynote speech from the Oregon Safe Schools Awards. The Huffington Post and the Tyler Clemente Foundation are still waiting for me to get their essays finished.

On top of this I have my own blog, my own twitter and Facebook, a business selling curriculum on Teacherspayteachers and a social networking platform that many professional PR people would kill for. I am finishing my 46th Ability Guidebook for people with autism. This one is for Croatia and adds an 11th country to my project. I have pictures for over 30 more books ready as soon as I have the time.

During the fall I also gave tv and radio interviews, wrote and gave three keynote speeches, sat on two education panels and was elected President of the Oregon State Network of State Teachers of the Year, named Chairman of NNSTOY’s Membership Committee and Chairman of the Day on the Hill Committee for their national conference, am Co-Chair of the ECET2OR conference here in Eugene and I serve on the board of two non profit organizations (Oregon Safe Schools and Clubfunder).

That was my fall. This is what I did in my free time. This is what I did while I wasn’t at work. My list for spring is…. daunting, to say the least.

But I bring this all up for a reason. This is not a “look what I did” post. You don’t have to look far to see what I’ve done lately. What it is is an example. Though I occasionally get a stipend, for everything I shared above that stipend totaled $125. That doesn’t even pay for ink cartridges I used printing materials for all the above events or the gas to get there. I’m doing this because it is bettering the lives of the kids in my classroom and, because of my interesting place in life, is bettering the lives of kids I’ve never met in places I have never been.

I do it because I am a teacher. And like all the other teachers you know, every single minute of our day is spoken for. There is never enough time to get everything done we want. Imagine being a 2nd grade teacher–how long does it take to cut out the pieces for 32 kids to do an art project? Just go cut out 64 eyes and see how long that takes. (and cut out a few extra because some will be lost or glued to the back on accident). Imagine the middle or high school teacher with 180 students and 180 papers to grade. If every paper got a single minute that is three hours. 2 minutes = 6 hours. 3 = 9. 4 = 12…

I hope you see where I am going with all of this… If you are a parent, the next time you see your kid’s paper with a bunch of red marks on it, know that that teacher probably stayed up late, skipped their favorite tv shows or reading a book, and instead tried to give your child 4 minutes, or 5 minutes or ten minutes of their time.

If you are a family member of a teacher, the next time you see them sitting with their never-ending pile of papers to read, bring them a cup of coffee or a tea and let them know you see their sacrifice.

And the next time you hear the media or a politician putting down the teachers, don’t accept it. Stand up for your teachers. Stand up for your schools. Appreciate what a good teacher gives to society and give them the job respect they deserve.

Only a few teachers are singled out and rewarded for this hard job. I have been blessed. But make sure the teachers in your life know they are appreciated!

Brett Bigham is the 2014 Oregon State Teacher of the Year and received one of the 2015 NEA National Award for Teaching Excellence, was named an NEA Foundation Global Fellow and was given the NEA LGBT Caucus National Teacher Role Model Award.  He is currently working with Microsoft Sway to create Ability Guidebooks for people with autism all over the world.  He teaches special education at George Middle School in Portland, Oregon.

All Ability Guidebooks Are Now On-Line In Sway!

I am very excited to announce that I have recreated all of my Ability Guidebooks as Microsoft Sways.  By changing into this new format they are now recordable and viewable on a smart phone.  If you need them as a PDF drop me a line, but Sway has allowed me to address the problem of making my books accessible to people who can’t read or can’t see well enough to read.  Check out the Explore Helsinki “I Am Going To Senate Square”–the first book that also has audio recording to see what a difference changing formats makes!

I’m also THRILLED to say that Microsoft has taken me under their wing and have been sharing out about the books all week.  They have been so incredibly helpful and are truly hoping that by giving my books more exposure, that people in other places will also create some books for their own home towns!

All of the Sway Ability Guidebooks are here:

And there is a blog post here that explains everything in a little more detail:

I Am Going To St Paul’s Cathedral! Ability Guidebooks Explore London by Brett Bigham

Few buildings have as much history as St Paul’s Cathedral.

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Ability Guidebook_ I Am Going To St Paul’s Cathedral!

I wish we had had time in London to get more pictures but we only had a day and half.  I’m thankful Mike is willing to stand in when I can’t get shots with the general public in them.  Sometimes the scale of the room is necessary to give a real idea of the space you are about to enter. Nothing shows that better than a person.  Without a model you have to wait ages to get a picture with just the right person to wander into the shot, at just the right angle and at just the right moment.

As a rule I try to get pictures with no faces in them but it is not always possible.  Often I will blur people out but that in itself is usually a bad choice.  Modern computer screens can be huge and a blurred-out face can be kind of scary on a big screen.  Since my goal is to familiarize people with a destination, the last thing I want to do is scare them with a blurry ghost face!

St. Paul’s does not currently allow photography inside so I am very thankful to the photographers who share their photos on  Wikimedia Commons.


I Am Going to the New Tate Modern and the Viewing Platform! A New Ability Guidebook for London!

This Ability Guidebook for the Tate includes visiting both the art collection and the Tate Viewing Platform.  I created three books for the Tate.  One for the art collection, one for the Tate Viewing Platform and this one that includes both.

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Ability Guidebook_ I Am Going To New Tate Modern and the Viewing Platform!

I Am Going To New Tate Modern! A New Ability Guidebook by Brett Bigham

The New Tate Modern has an amazing collection of Modern Art.  If you could pick only one museum in the world to visit the Tate should be at the top of your list!

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Aside from the art collection, the building itself has a 365 degree viewing platform on the 10th floor.  Because visiting both the museum and the viewing platform on the same day might be too difficult a trip, I’ve created three books: one for the art museum alone, one for the viewing platform alone and one with both.  This will give you some options if you need to segment your trip.

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I Am Going To The New Tate Modern Viewing Level! An Ability Guidebook for London!

Hello Great Britain!  I am thrilled to present London’s first Ability Guidebook, I Am Going To The New Tate Modern Viewing Level!

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Ability Guidebook_ I Am Going To The New Tate Modern Viewing Platform


I Am Going To The Latvian National Museum of Art! Latvia’s first Ability Guidebook!

I’m very proud to announce Latvia is the  seventh country to have Ability Guidebooks! This museum has a wonderful collection of classical and modern Latvian artists!  Hopefully I can get this translated into Latvian to help local people visit the museum.

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Ability Guidebook_ I Am Going To The Latvian National Museum of Art!