Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

RDPFS Resources for Partners August 20, 2021

Virtual Book Club Seeks New Members

A virtual book club for people with vision loss, launched by Lighthouse Guild last September, will begin its second year with its next meeting, on Wednesday, September 8. The program, in partnership with Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation (RFPFS) and Bookshare, will meet ten times during the year. Partners for Sight is providing a complimentary one-year subscription to its Select Editions Large Type (SELT) condensed popular novels. Members have the option of reading via large print, audio or dual-modality. Alice Massa, a Lighthouse Guild volunteer and occupational therapist, moderates the group, bringing her own experience of transitioning from print to audiobooks into the discussion. She guides members who are having difficulty transitioning from print to audio as well. The group is limited to 15 members. A few memberships are still available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information or to register, check out the virtual book club for individuals with vision loss.

Upcoming Seminar: Low Vision Resources: September 11, 12 pm EDT

The Foundation Fighting Blindness invites sign ups for its National Vision Webinar. Speakers include an “all-star line-up of experts in low vision,” with presentations on orientation and mobility, occupational therapy, accommodations, and other services and resources. To register go to: National Chapter Vision Webinar: Low Vision Resources.

Survey on Assistive Technology Training Needs

Teachers of students with vision impairments (TVIs), orientation and mobility specialists, assistive technology instructors and other professionals work with students who are visually impaired are invited to take a survey designed to address continuing education needs. A partnership of organizations developed the survey as part of an effort to “better meet the assistive technology needs of people who support children, youth, and adults who are blind, have low vision or are deafblind.” Partner organizations include the Assistive Technology Industry Association (ATIA), the Academy for Certification of Vision Rehabilitation & Educational Professionals (ACVREP), The American Printing House for the Blind (APH), Association for Education and Rehabilitation of the Blind and Visually Impaired (AER), and The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). For more information and to complete the survey, by September 1, go to ATIA Survey on Assistive Technology Training Needs in Support of People who are Blind, Have Low-Vision, or are DeafBlind.

Research Study at University of Chicago Seeks Participants

Individuals with vision impairment are being recruited to join in a study underway through the University of Chicago on access to healthcare.  The study aims to assess obstacles faced by people who are visually impaired and to get input to advocate for improvements in healthcare access. Participation will take approximately 2.5 hours and those involved will receive $50 as compensation upon completion of the study. Those who are residents of New York State, 18 years of age or older, legally blind and planning to visit a healthcare provider within the next two months may qualify to join. To sign up or for more information, contact Uma Balachandran at (646) 320-7641 or [email protected].

Dealing with the Challenges That Emerged During COVID-19

By Ahmat Djouma

COVID-19 has presented difficulties to everyone, particularly those of us with vision impairment. During the second semester of my senior year of college, everything closed down and everyone was talking about social distancing, the pandemic and other new and challenging restrictions.  I was really worried about what this would mean for me in terms of navigating on campus.  For example, I was concerned about whether people would be willing to help with the social distancing measures and how I work would with a human sighted guide during the pandemic. This issue changed, of course, when we were sent home at the beginning of the semester. I was fortunate to be able to return home and live with my family.  An article on the Well + Good website,
Quarantine Conditions Have Uniquely Impacted People with Vision Impairments--Here's How, discusses the issues faced by those who are vision impaired.  For example, following social distancing markers that are only visible to the human eye, with no textured marks, may present challenges when shopping at stores.  Also, transportation became more challenging. If you have depended on reliable public transportation, crowded conditions have made that more unsafe during the pandemic.  And fewer drivers have been available for many of the rideshare services, making these services more unreliable.  At the same time that these challenges escalated, however, more virtual events occurred, making some resources more accessible to those who are unable to travel. In that way, opportunities emerged during a very difficult period – creating new ways to engage and participate in activities that will likely continue even as the pandemic wanes.

Auditorial: An Accessible Storytelling Website

Recognizing that most websites “do not meet accessibility standards,” Google, The Guardian, and the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) have designed Auditorial, “an experiment in storytelling.” This website makes it possible for users who are blind or have low vision to customize websites to meet their sensory needs. Auditorial uses features like “multimodal films, text-only modes, focus controls, video, and audio speed controls to tell a story.” Readers can access Auditorial’s settings to adjust the experience at any point in a story. Whether the user wants to read, listen to or watch a story, its customizable interface can be adjusted to individual preferences. When reading, for example, alternative color schemes are provided to enhance the experience for those with color sensitivity or low vision. For those who listen, Auditorial offers storytelling in an emotive and expressive way that is “missing in screen reading software.” In watching a story, users can experience “visual effects, sound narration, and textual captions.” The story can be paused, fast forwarded, or rewound. Read more about it on the website: What is Google's Auditorial Experiment?

E-Scooters to Add Sound for People with Vision Loss

Some E-scooters in the United Kingdom will now emit a “’low hum’” to let others on the road know that an e-scooter is approaching. The sound, similar to artificial engine noises added to electric cars, “can be adapted and improved by (E-scooter provider) Voi, based on feedback from users..." and from the community of individuals living with vision impairment.  They will be holding in-person testing events to elicit feedback from people with vision loss. Voi also plans to seek input from vision organizations, local authorities and Voi users. Following the testing period, Voi will work with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB)  to evaluate the feedback and publish findings. Learn more about it from Access  & Mobility Professional: Sound to be added to e-scooters as part of trial to protect people with sight loss.

Celebrate the National Park Service’s 105th Birthday: In- Park and Virtual Programs

August 25, 2021 marks the 105th birthday of the National Park Service. To celebrate this milestone, national parks across the country are hosting a month-long celebration – and waiving entrance fees on the anniversary date. Building on the theme “Park Scrapbooks,” visitors are invited to share videos, artwork, poetry, photos and other memorabilia on social media using tags such as #ParkScrapbooks and #FindYourPark. For those planning to visit parks in person, park rangers are sharing lists of their “insider tips.” To learn about in-person and virtual events, check the calendar of events. If you want to search by location and activity, you can find your park here. You can also join in the birthday celebration from home or from anywhere in the world – and “find virtual ways to stay connected with more than 400 national parks across the country and park party games that you can do anywhere, anytime.” For example, you might “Make Your Own National Park Bingo” or “Create Your Own Park Logo or Arrowhead.”   Find out more about how NPS Celebrates!

Paralympics 2021: August 24 – September 5, 2021

Over the past few weeks we’ve highlighted a number of athletes who are blind or visually impaired. This coming Tuesday the Paralympics begins for these and many other top competitors – and our coverage continues.

Goalball: What it is and How It’s Played

Referred to as “the most popular team sport for the blind and visually impaired…”, goalball has been part of the Paralympics since the 1976 Toronto Games. The sport has existed, however, since 1946. At that time, Hanz Lorrenzen, from Austria, and Sett Reindle, from Germany, created the game to help keep blinded World War II veterans physically active. It is now played competitively in 112 nations. Goalball involves two teams, each with three players, who play each other across a court. Those competing roll a basketball-sized ball with bells inside “over the opponent’s goal line.” The opposing team tries to block the ball. If and when they do, they take control of the ball and “become the offensive team.” Learn more about how the game is played, including strategy, equipment and how to find a team to join, by checking out the United States Association of Blind Athletes’ web article: Goalball.

This Year’s U.S. Paralympic Goalball Teams

When goalball became part of the Paralympics in 1976, it marked the expansion of “the roster of competitive sports to include opportunities for vision-impaired athletes.” This year six men and six women represent Team USA in Tokyo. The goal: “to go for the double-gold – a sweep no county has managed since 1984, when the U.S. won both goalball events at the Paralympics in New York City.” Following are brief introductions to the U.S. athletes, excerpted from Team USA’s announcement: "Meet the U.S. Paralympic Goalball Teams".

Men’s Team:

Zach Buhler: This first-time Paralympian, age 24, comes from Marion, Indiana and has been playing goalball since 2016. He also plays Beep Baseball for the Indy Thunder.

John Kusku: This is the second Paralympics for Michigan native, 37 year-old Kusku, who has won medals in 2016 and in other previous competitions.

Tyler Merren: A fourth-time Paralympian from Coral Springs, Florida, Merren is 37 as well and has won multiple medals. He also founded ReVision Training, which creates audio fitness apps for athletes who are visually impaired.

Matt Simpson: Athlete and recent law school graduate, Simpson, from Smyrna, Georgia, has served on the Athletes Advisory Committee for the United States Olympic & Paralympic Committee.

Daryl Walker: This marks the third Paralympics for Walker, who is 39 years old and from Jacksonville, Florida. He has won multiple medals in previous competitions.

Calahan Young: A first timer in the Paralympics, Young, 25 and from Irwin, Pennsylvania, “scored 15 goals at the 2019 Parapen American Games, where Team USA locked up its berth to the Tokyo Paralympics.”

Women’s Team:

Mindy Cook: A first-time Paralympian, Columbus, Ohio native and graduate of The Ohio State University, Cook began playing goalball in 2017. She participated in two tournaments in 2019, including one where her team “captured gold.”

Lisa Czechowski: This marks the sixth Paralympics appearance for Czechowski, 42, of Boonton, New Jersey. She has won medals in past competitions for goalball and discus.

Amanda Dennis: Dennis began playing goalball as a child in Georgia. Her talents advanced rapidly and she made her “Paralympic debut” at the age of 18 at the 2012 London Games, earning a bronze with her team in 2016. Married last year to German goalball player Michael Feistle, Dennis spent much of her training time in Berlin.

Marybai Huking: Originally a figure skater, Huking switched to goal ball after moving to Utah in the sixth grade. She became the “youngest member of the U.S. women’s national team that won gold” in 2014. This is her second Paralympics.

Eliana Mason: Mason, now 25, was a member of the 2014 U.S. team, at the age of 14, that won the world championships for goalball. In her first Paralympics appearance in 2016 she brought home a bronze medal to Beaverton, Oregon.

Asya Miller: Miller, 41, has appeared in "five consecutive Paralympic Games" (2004-2016), with the trophies to prove it. She also took bronze in Sydney for discus. Miller has competed in four goalball world championships and won three gold medals for powerlifting.