by Connor Courtien, RDPFS Intern
Cleaning as an activity is, for most people, a necessary evil. It can be especially challenging, and even frustrating, for those with visual impairments, yet is all the more essential. For people who are blind or have low vision, clutter acts not just as an organizational inconvenience, but can also be a navigational hazard. In addition, unseen dust and mold can cause adverse health effects over time. Therefore, as we’re in the midst of the season, here are some tips to make your spring cleaning less frustrating and more effective. Starting with simpler tasks, cleaning windows and mirrors, follow a defined grid pattern. An example of this would be starting at the top-left corner, moving your hand to the right side, down a bit, and back to the left side, going back and forth like this until reaching a bottom corner. This ensures that you cover the entire surface and don’t have to wonder about where you’ve been. Cleaning floors can be handled similarly. First remove all small objects and light furniture, and then use the perimeter of the room as a reference, moving back and forth from wall-to-wall while cleaning. This also provides an opportunity to declutter the space and dispose of any small objects you come across that aren’t needed. While generally you’ll want to use gloves when handling soaps and cleaning solutions, it’s advisable to remove the gloves when cleaning areas that might be difficult to see, yet easy to feel, such as baseboards and light fixtures. A final tip is to have a friend help you go through your winter clothes before packing them away to determine if they’ve accumulated any rips or stains. You can also use services like Be My Eyes or Aira for this purpose. For more tips, and ways to make your own cleaning solutions, refer to this article from VisionAware on Spring Cleaning with Low Vision, as well as this one from Outlook Enrichment offering Spring Cleaning Tips for the Visually Impaired.
New Certification Being Developed for Occupational Therapists in Blindness/Low Vision: Join in a Virtual Listening Session on April 17, 2023
ACVREP (The Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation and Education Professionals) recently announced that they are developing “an in-depth certification for licensed/registered Occupational Therapists (OTs) in blindness/low vision,” as covered in a recent issue of this Bulletin. In explaining the decision and its timing, ACVREP highlighted the rapidly growing population of older adults who need vision rehabilitation services and the shortage of “well-trained quality professionals who can help them maintain their independence.” They underscored the need to expand the number of professionals who can address the needs of individuals who experience low vision or blindness during their senior years. The development of this new certification does not replace any of the currently existing professionals or certifications. Rather, this increases the “number of professionals qualified to provide vision rehabilitation.” For additional details, read this Important Message From the ACVREP Board of Directors. You can also join in a listening session with the Board on the topic on April 17, 2023 beginning at 5 pm ET. Register here to "Share Your View" re OT Certification.
Establishing a Medical Model for Reimbursement of Low Vision Rehabilitation Services: A Webinar on April 20, 2023
By securing reimbursement through Medicare, Medicaid, and other third-party payors, vision rehabilitation services can be provided to greater numbers of individuals with vision loss. For those interested in pursuing this option, VisionServe Alliance is offering a webinar on April 20, 2023 from 3:30 to 5 pm ET. Their Vision Rehabilitation Medical Model Billing & Documentation Webinar will introduce the process of establishing a medical model to obtain reimbursement for low vision rehabilitation services. The program is recommended for CEOs, CFOs, Programs Managers, and others. Register here for the Zoom presentation on "Establishing a Medical Model for Reimbursement of Low Vision Rehabilitation Services."
“Investigate what is it like to be a blind journalist” by joining in this webinar from the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) on April 20, 2023 from 8 to 9 pm ET. A panel discussion with blind journalists will guide the program, covering how these individuals perform job responsibilities and manage their successful careers. In addition to writing, journalism encompasses conducting interviews, research and, at times, extensive travel. Among the topics these journalists will discuss are their education and training, alternative techniques and strategies they’ve used, such as braille and accessible technology, how to overcome “attitudinal and accessibility barriers” at work, and more. Find out additional details here about the Where the Blind Work Webinar: Journalists. And, register here to "Learn more from professionals with lived-experiences to grow your own career."
Throughout April, Counseling Awareness Month recognizes the critical role of professional counselors across workplace settings “in keeping people and communities healthy.” Sponsored by the American Counseling Association, this occasion offers an opportunity to celebrate and thank the profession of counseling as well as the individuals devoting their careers to it. The theme for 2023, “’Get Fit for Your Future,’” serves to remind these professionals to take the time to care for their own wellness, including mental, social, emotional, and physical fitness. By doing so, they can better serve clients and have the energy to engage fully with their family, friends, and activities. Counseling encompasses a number of specialties, covered through the Association’s 18 different divisions, addressing issues related to such concerns as adult development and aging, assessment and research, child and adolescent counseling, counselors working with college students, to name a few. One of the divisions, the American Rehabilitation Counseling Association (ARCA), involves rehabilitation counseling practitioners, educators, and students who specialize in “enhancing the development of people with disabilities” throughout the life span, with a focus also on professional development. As noted in the Bulletin covering National Rehabilitation Counselors Day, rehabilitation counselors, in particular, help individuals with vision loss and other disabilities to achieve their goals, personally and professionally. To learn more about the commemoration, along with a calendar of events, visit the website for Counseling Awareness Month. Learn more here about ARCA.
by Connor Courtien, RDPFS Intern
While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 ensures that physical sites adhere to certain accessibility standards, this protection against the discrimination of those with disabilities does not clearly extend to websites. This is a contentious issue, as some courts, particularly in the Circuit Courts of Appeals, have ruled in favor of digital spaces and services being covered by the ADA, while other courts have determined that this is only the case if they’re connected to a physical site. As more government services are becoming fully digitized, it poses increasing concerns that if these services aren’t mandated to be accessible, they might prohibit use by those with disabilities. This is of particular concern for those with visual impairments, as many rely on assistive technology like screen-readers to navigate websites. If these sites are not designed with these features in mind, they won’t be accessible. Two states, Maryland and Colorado, have already put measures in place to fill this gap left by the ambiguous protections of the ADA. Maryland, through its Nonvisual Access Clause, has mandated that any new or upgraded technology in the state has equal access for those with and without visual impairments, ensuring that all state government websites are fully accessible. Colorado has turned to the Aira app, providing the service free of charge, allowing users to connect with agents to help them navigate all of their government sites. While individual states providing accessibility protections is great news, fortunately there is also an impetus to advance digital accessibility on the federal level, as well. Senator Tammy Duckworth introduced the Websites and Software Applications Accessibility Act last year, a bill that would require employers and public entities that offer goods or services to have accessible websites, even if they have no physical counterpart. To learn more about the ADA in the digital age and how its gaps in protections are being bridged at both the state and federal levels read this article from StateScoop on the need to update legislation.
Changing the Speed of a YouTube Video
A potentially valuable learning tool, YouTube can be experienced better by some students who are visually impaired at a decreased playback speed. A recent blog from Paths to Literacy makes this point and explains how to change the playback speed for YouTube videos. After opening the desired video, go to the “Settings” button, which is located on the top right corner of the screen. A menu will appear with a choice of speeds, e.g., 0.5, 0.25, or 0.75. Once one of these is selected, the menu will close and the video will play at that speed. Click here for more details about "Changing the Speed of a YouTube Video."
Creating Audio Description for YouTube with YouDescribe
Although accessibility for videos has advanced a great deal in recent years with the introduction of captioning software, “there is still no automated method for how to create audio description for YouTube to help viewers with vision impairments.” Unlike captions, audio description cannot be generated automatically; it must be done manually by people. To address this, a service called YouDescribe makes it possible for volunteers who are sighted to write and record audio description for YouTube with the free YouDescribe website. A project of the Smith-Kettlewell Eye Research Institute in San Francisco, California, YouDescribe is available as a free iOS app. However, the “audio description tracks can only be created through web browsers.” It can be used with or without an account to view videos, although to request videos and create descriptions, connecting to a Google account is required. Read more on the Perkins School for the Blind website about How to Create Audio Description for YouTube with YouDescribe.
by Connor Courtien, RDPFS Intern
Dave Steele is a poet and musician who has vision loss due to retinitis pigmentosa, a group of eye diseases that cause the gradual breakdown of cells in the retina. He has explored and embraced his vision loss through his poetry, even using the moniker The Blind Poet. In continuing the observance of National Poetry Month, which “celebrates poets’ integral role in our culture,” here’s a poem from Dave Steele titled “Blind Acceptance,” reprinted with his permission:
"When I awake, continue to adapt.
Make best of little I have left,
though my energy is sapped.
"The simple things are challenges,
in tunnel learn to cope.
For distant cure,
as when unsure,
I'll never give up hope.
"But I won't lend my focus to a thing that may not come.
I feel my way,
with pain from glare of sun.
consumed by hate,
cause world won't understand.
I'll use my new found talent,
blind acceptance I'll demand.
"I'll write my deepest fears and dreams,
for all the world to read.
Our fight for blind awareness all together we'll succeed.
"Just hope they see,
as heart and soul I bare.
But all my words are wasted if you never read and share."
A new website from Dave Steele, theblindpoet.net, is coming soon. As of now, you can visit the site to contact him directly with any inquiries.
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