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RDPFS Resources for Partners August 18, 2023

Live High-Contrast and Audio-Described Virtual Workouts Offered at No Cost

Northwest Association for Blind Athletes (NWABA) leads virtual workouts online Monday through Friday free of charge via the Zoom platform. All workouts are high contrast and audio described. These workouts, which include such offerings as Core Stability, Dance Aerobics, Cardio, and Yoga, were highlighted in a previous issue of this Bulletin. A new workout, Deep Stretch, has been added on Tuesdays at 9 am Pacific Time (12 noon Eastern Time). This session aims at helping participants increase their flexibility by flowing through relaxing dynamic and static stretches designed to broaden the range of motion. NWABA reports that these offerings provide their community of athletes a good workout while connecting with each other. They invite new participants to join from the comfort of home and connect with people across the country. The space needed for each workout is the length of a yoga mat. For additional information, visit the NWABA webpage on Virtual Events. For a “sneak peek” at the workouts, check out their Youtube Channel. [...]

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Highlights of Recent Conferences Now Available

Earlier this summer, the American Council of the Blind (ACB) and the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) held their National Conventions. Attendees had the opportunity to attend many presentations, workshops, and exhibits. The following posts provide some highlights. [...]

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2023 ACB Annual Conference and Convention

by B. E. Lewis, RDPFS Intern The American Council of the Blind (ACB) 62nd Annual Conference and Convention was held in Schaumburg, IL from July 1 to July 6, 2023, with virtual programming beginning on July 19, 2023. This year ACB celebrated its leadership status in advancing the use of audio description,” most notably through the Audio Description Project. Interim Executive Director Dan Spoone reaffirmed their dedication to this initiative, noting that “we have now taken that one step further…we’ll have our third annual (audio description) awards gala on November 14th where we honor industry, and providers of audio description who have made a difference…This is amazing progress.” Actor Ewan McGregor, whose mother worked in the field of audio description, and Musician Stevie Wonder, who is blind, spoke about the importance of descriptive video as well. Another ACB priority is accessible currency with tactile features. Work is underway with the U.S. Treasury Department to produce a new accessible $10 bill by 2026. U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth described working with ACB on legislation to make website and software applications more accessible for all users. For the remarks by McGregor, Wonder, and Senator Duckworth, check out the video on YouTube of the 2023 ACB Conference & Convention: General Session July 1, 2023. Their presentations begin at 40 minutes and ten seconds. Videos of sessions are also available on topics such as increasing “Access to Professional Blind and Low Vision Services.” This conversation among service providers, professionals, and consumer stakeholders focused on the evolving landscape of vision rehabilitation services. ACB’s website features numerous videos, with transcripts, from the convention, including the Opening General Session, daily General Sessions, and the Banquet program. Recordings and transcripts of the week’s awards, discussions, and events can be found on the ACB Conference and Convention website. [...]

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2023 Annual Convention of the NFB

by B. E. Lewis, RDPFS Intern This summer marked the 83rd Annual Convention of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), held July 1 to 7, 2023 in Houston, Texas. The program underscored the importance for blind people to remain at the center of advocacy for technology, legislation, and services. As NFB President, Mark A. Riccobono, affirmed in his speech at the banquet on July 6, 2023: “With the strength of one collective heartbeat, tonight we invite all of humanity to join our blind-centered people’s movement—we are the National Federation of the Blind.” Riccobono also provided a report that reviewed priorities. These ranged from efforts to improve outreach and effective communication with the Spanish-speaking blind, to advancing legislation related to equal access to websites, to addressing the persistent problem of the denial by rideshare drivers who refuse to transport blind passengers with guide dogs, to name a few. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, who supports legislation for online accessibility for people who are blind or visually impaired, spoke during the convention as well. She appears at two hours and 24 minutes into the YouTube video of General Session VI. Daily discussion sessions were recorded and are available online. Jonathan Mosen of the podcast, “Living Blindfully,” presented a notable discussion, highlighted by President Riccobano, based on the story of “The Little Red Hen.” It begins at about 56 minutes into the YouTube video of General Session V. Other sessions covered such topics as “Leveraging Personal AI to Build the Organized Blind Movement,” “Full Participation of the Disabled in America…,” and “A Report on the Federation’s Research, Training and Partnership Programs,” and much more. The convention also featured an extensive exhibit hall, including innovative products and services, foldable large screens, and much, much more. For more information and a list of exhibitors, check out the NFB Exhibit Hall webpage. The transcript of Riccobano’s report highlighting recent accomplishments and priorities can be found on the webpage on the 2023 Presidential Report. His banquet speech is also available on the page entitled “Belief, Courage, and Wisdom: Centering on the Blind People’s Movement.”  For more audio and video of the other sessions as well as text of additional speeches, visit the NFB webpage on the 2023 National Convention, which includes links to and recaps of individual sessions. [...]

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A Virtual Visit to the Convention Exhibits

The Blind Life, a YouTube channel, reviewed the exhibits featured at both the NFB and ACB conventions. Check out the coverage in the piece entitled “I Went To Both The ACB & NFB 2023 National Conventions, This Is What I Saw!”. [...]

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“Our Future Matters:” Join the Online Dialogue to Inform Federal Interagency Strategy

by B. E. Lewis, RDPFS Intern “How can employment services be more effective for young adults with disabilities?” Addressing this question, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL), in collaboration with partner federal agencies, is hosting an ePolicyWorks online dialogue. This initiative seeks innovative ideas to help improve policies and practices that lead to a smooth transition to employment for youth with disabilities. The website hosting this national online dialogue, titled “Our Future Matters,” welcomes ideas and experiences from all stakeholders, including anyone with a personal or professional interest in supporting the aspirations of youth and young adults with disabilities to live, work, and thrive in their communities.” Join the Online Conversation by submitting ideas on such topics as education, employment, health and human services, and social security. Comments can include thoughts about changes that need to occur to improve services in these and other areas.  Those providing input will also have an opportunity to add topics, such as access to childcare and transportation, and to review and comment on the ideas of others who have joined in the conversation. This online conversation will help to identify issues of concern as well as “creative solutions” to overcome challenges that currently exist. Following the submission of ideas and comments, the DOL and federal agency partners will analyze what has been received to inform their work to address and support youth with disabilities in the transition to adulthood. Learn more and join in this “transformative discussion and contribute your experiences and ideas” at Our Future Matters: Informing the Federal Interagency Strategy. In order to provide input, you will need to have or establish an account. A link to register is included. [...]

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Research Update: A New Technique to Repair Damaged Corneas

Researchers from the University of Ottawa (Canada) have developed a substance that can help to reshape and thicken damaged corneal tissue, which can promote its healing and recovery.  The cornea, the domed, transparent part of the eye covering the iris and the pupil, allows light to enter the inside and is “responsible for two-thirds of the eye’s focusing power.” As the population of older adults increases, the incidence of thinning of corneas is also rising. Corneal diseases can result in vision loss or blindness. Current treatment generally involves transplants to treat disorders that result in thinning corneas, such as keratoconus, a “poorly understood eye disease that results in loss of vision for many people.” Millions of people around the world experience corneal diseases and only a small percentage are eligible for transplantation. The research study involved developing “light-activated injectable biomaterials with a range of properties that could be fine-tuned to resemble the human cornea,” which potentially could be used “as bulking agents for thinning corneas.” The process is guided by biomimetic design, or “innovation inspired by nature.” Study results demonstrated that a new material, activated by light, could bring about a “plausible alternative to corneal transplantation for future treatment of corneal disorders.” Read more details in the news release about the Healing power of light: uOttawa team advances clear vision for eye repair as well as the article in Interesting Engineering describing how Low-energy blue light-activated biomaterial can repair damaged corneas. For the full research report, visit the Wiley Online Library webpage entitled Low Energy Blue Pulsed  Light-Activated Injectable Materials for Restoring Thinning Corneas. [...]

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Tuning Into the Sounds of Nature: Birding

“For some blind birders, avian soundscapes are a way to map the world around them,” according to a recent article in The New York Times describing the experiences of a few birders who are blind. For example, Susan Glass, who has been blind since birth, notes that birding is not just a hobby, stating that “’Birds are my eyesight.’” Through the years, using the sounds of birds, Glass has charted her environment. As a child, she noticed birds singing outside her family’s home on Michigan’s Lake Erie coast and recalled that “’I was paying attention to where they were flying, and I could actually start to hear the dimensions of our little cabin, the screen porch, the front yard.’” From that time on, she has used bird song to map her surroundings. Birding has become more popular in general in recent years, getting an extra boost during the COVID-19 pandemic, with fewer distractions, as well as a reduction in ambient noise. A Massachusetts Audubon Society program ornithologist, Sarah Courchesne, credits the increased interest in birding partly to the fact that it provides a way for people of all abilities to “tap into nature, whether by eye, ear or both.” With this growth in popularity and increased diversity, birding clubs and conservation organizations are becoming more focused on accessibility, changing how they talk and think about the pastime. The terminology itself is evidence of the transformation. Previously, the term “birder” referred to those who were more serious than the casual, “bird watcher” hobbyist. Now it is becoming a “catchall,” as a result of growing awareness that some people identify birds not by watching, but strictly by listening. Spaces are being reconfigured also, including features like guardrails to guide visitors with vision loss. The New York Times article provides more details as well as audio examples of the sounds of various species of birds, such as the American Eastern Towhee, the American Robin, the Baltimore Oriole, and Northern Cardinal, to name a few. Read the complete article entitled ‘Birds Are My Eyesight’ here. For more information about this popular pastime and the increase in accessibility, check out previous Bulletin articles, including one on Birding By Ear: Late Winter and Spring Edition and Birding for People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired: Tips and Resources. [...]

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Having Trouble Reading Standard Print? Enjoy today’s bestsellers in easy-to-read large print: Select Editions Large Type Books

Enjoy the best in current fiction, romance, mystery, biography, adventure, and more. Reader’s Digest Select Editions Large Type features expertly edited best-selling books in every volume. You get a full year of exciting reading (five volumes in all), for the low nonprofit price of $25. Indulge your love of great reading in a format that is comfortable and pleasurable to read. A portion of the proceeds from each subscription supports Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation’s work and dedication to fostering the independence of people who are blind and visually impaired. Each subscriber also receives a large-print calendar free of charge. Subscribe to Reader’s Digest Select Editions Large Type today or give a gift subscription. To order your subscription by phone, call 1-800-877-5293. [...]

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Attention RDPFS Bulletin Readers: Please Share Your News

Would you like to let others know about a program, webinar, other news, or information?  The RDPFS Resources for Partners Bulletin offers an opportunity to share items of interest to people of all ages who are blind or have low vision as well as professionals, family members, representatives of organizations providing services, advocacy, education and career and vocational training, and more. If you would like to reach our readers or have suggestions for upcoming issues, please email [email protected].