Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

RDPFS Resources for Partners August 27, 2021

Back to School Time Continues…

By Ahmat Djouma

For some, school has already started, while other students are gearing up for the upcoming academic year. In either case – and whether school is in person or virtual – some resources we have found can be helpful in preparing for classes, studying, completing assignments and the myriad details needing attention as the school year unfolds.

Getting and Staying Organized: The best way to ensure a good start to the school year is to have everything organized. This is especially true for college students. When you are organized, everything can go smoothly as you begin the semester. If you tend to be a procrastinator, tips on how to become and stay organized will really help you to complete your assignments on time. Watch the demo on how to stay organized from Perkins School for the Blind eLearning at Paths to Technology.

Stock Up on Supplies:
One source, Adaptations Online from the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired in San Francisco, offers a variety of products and technology, including labelers, canes and cane tips, calendars and planners, some of which are on sale through the end of August. Check them out at Adaptations.

The Carroll Store, located online (as well as on the campus of The Carroll School for the Blind in Massachusetts), specializes in products for people who are blind or have low vision. They have a wide selection of products for daily living, including several that can be helpful during the school year, such as clocks, organizer wallets, lighting and technology. These and other items – some of which are also on clearance sales – can be checked out on line at The Carroll Store.

Finally, Bookshare has some great resources for obtaining textbooks, finding ways to read them and links to other book sources. Check out their offerings, as Bookshare states, to “Harness the excitement and energy to return to in-person learning.”

Scholarships Available Now

Although college scholarship applications for students who are visually impaired generally are announced early in the year, we found a few that can be accessed now:

American Printing House for the Blind (APH) has announced the extension of its deadline to September 17, 2021 for the new Peter Papano – APH STEM Scholarship. Applicants must live in California, plan to go to college there and major in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) or Fine Arts subject. To learn more about the scholarship and to apply go to the APH site and download the Peter Pagano - APH Stem Scholarship Guidelines.

Learning Ally’s National Achievement Awards provide three endowed scholarships for  “outstanding students with print and learning disabilities and the educators who ensure our students thrive academically.” Award recipients receive scholarship funding as well as national recognition for their accomplishments. The three awards are:
Mary P. Oenslager Scholastic Achievement Awards (SAA): for Learning Ally members who are blind or visually impaired and are college seniors or in graduate school “in recognition for academic achievement, outstanding leadership, and service to others.” The application deadline is December 31, 2021.
Marion Huber Learning Through Listening® Awards: for Learning Ally members who are high school seniors with learning disabilities and plan to continue their education. Application deadline: December 31, 2021.
Winslow Coyne Reitnouer Excellence in Education Award: recognizing “outstanding educators supporting students who learn differently.” Recipients receive cash and other prizes “as well as opportunities to showcase their work” in empowering “all readers.” Learn more and apply for the National Achievement Awards.

4to24 App Focuses on Preparing Children and Youth for Independence and Employment

This free resource aims to help parents of children and youth who are blind or have low vision, as well as youth ages 16 through 24, build independence to achieve “successful employment and independent living as an adult.” For parents, the app offers information, activities and connections to resources that can help children through their developing years. Youth utilizing 4to24 can get the same information, with writing geared to a younger audience. To access the app, created by the National Research and Training Center on Blindness and Low Vision (NRTC) of Mississippi State University, download it from the iOS App Store or on Google Play and register as a new user. Find out more from NRTC by checking out the 4to24 App.

Four New Members Appointed to AbilityOne Commission

By Ahmat Djouma

President Biden has appointed four new representatives to the U.S. AbilityOne Commission. An independent Federal agency, the Commission was established by the Wagner O’Day Act in 1938 to provide employment to individuals who are blind and later amended, as the Javits-Wagner-O’Day Act, to include individuals with significant disabilities. The agency manages the AbilityOne Program, currently “one of the largest sources of employment for people who are blind or have significant disabilities.” The law provides that the Commission’s 15 members include 11 from Federal agencies and four private citizens knowledgeable about people who are blind or have significant disabilities, including employees of nonprofit agencies affiliated with the AbilityOne Program. The Commission’s goal is to provide employment opportunities “in the manufacture and delivery of products and services to the Federal government.” This includes the responsibility for setting market prices and maintaining a Procurement List of products and services from “designated nonprofit agencies.” The four new appointments are: Bryan Bashin, CEO of the Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually-Impaired in San Francisco, whose organization employs blind workers through the National Industries for the Blind, a central agency in the Ability One Program; Christina Brandt, CEO of nonprofit AtWork!; Gabe Cazares, Director of Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s Office for People with Disabilities; and Chai Feldblum, an expert in disability law and employment. Read the full press statement from the White House: President Biden appoints members to U.S. AbilityOne Commission.

Upcoming Conferences

Registration Open for “The Tech Conference for a Better World” – October 13-15

Nonprofit professionals are invited to sign up free of charge for bbcon® 2021, an online-only event sponsored by Blackbaud, a software and data intelligence serving nonprofits, foundations, corporations, educational institutions, and healthcare organizations. The event sponsors promise to offer “three days of cutting-edge thought leadership, inspiration, virtual networking and unforgettable experiences.” Tech innovations and transformative technology from industry experts will be presented, with the goal of providing tangible strategies to advance the mission of those attending. Main speakers include Laura Dern, actor, producer and activist; Mike Gianoni, president and CEO of Blackbaud; LeVar Burton, actor, director and educator; and Catherine LaCour, chief marketing officer, Blackbaud. For more information, and to register, The Tech Conference for a Better World.

Assessing the Health of Your Nonprofit: Webinar October 21, 2021

The pandemic brought about many changes to nonprofit organizations, seeking to continue their missions while ensuring safe operations. To address these issues – and to prepare for the “new normal” – New York Nonprofit Media is hosting its second “Virtual Nonprofit Checkup” on October 21 from 1 to 4 pm ET. Participating panelists will cover leadership effectiveness, the return to work/office, financial health and how to keep up with technology. Nonprofit leaders from throughout the New York area will come together at this forum. Register for free at Nonprofit CheckUp.

Eye Test Supported by AI Can Detect Early Signs of Geographic Atrophy

Research conducted in the United Kingdom has utilized technology that can detect signs of geographic atrophy (GA) before damage to vision occurs. The clinical trial led by a research team at Imperial College London and UCL (University College London) reported findings that revealed sections of the eye showing early signs of GA, an advanced form of age-related macular degeneration and common cause of vision loss. The technology tested involved a form of retinal imaging called Detection of Apoptosis in Retinal Cells (DARC). “The researchers believe that this technology could be used as a screening test for GA and help advance the development of new treatments for the disease.” Currently, the early stages of the condition occur with few noticeable symptoms, so that vision loss progresses undetected until GA advances. The study reported that DARC predicted new areas of GA three years ahead of time. DARC technology “allows the visualization of sick and dying cells on the retina…” and highlights “unhealthy and sick cells, to give an indication of disease activity.” Read more from the Imperial College London about how an AI-supported test can predict eye disease that leads to blindness. The full study can be found in ScienceDirect’s Progress in Retinal Eye Research.

Making Music: How One Company Made Its Software More Accessible

London-based music producer Jason Dasent not only makes music – he also has helped music software and hardware company Arturia better address the needs of musicians with vision impairment. Dasent, who is visually impaired, joined with Arturia after purchasing equipment from the company a few years ago and dealing with the lack of accessibility of its offerings. Following a presentation he made about this at the Audio Developers Conference (ADC) in London he was approached by Arturia to work with them to make their Analog Lab accessible. Over the next months, he provided ongoing feedback to the Arturia team as they worked on a “prototype” of an accessibility toolset. As a result, they recently “launched a new update” and announced a new accessibility mode for Analog Lab V. The new mode makes it possible for “users to turn on auditory feedback and screen reading.” As Dasent explained, “’Basically, as I press a button on Keylab (music synthesizer), or I turn a dial or change a value, it sends notifications out to the system voice, allowing me to know exactly what’s on the keyboard.’”  An article on the engadget website describes the work of Dasent and Arturia, as well as the fact that “Like most of the tech industry, music software developers have, until now, largely overlooked the needs of people with disabilities.” For more information about accessibility and music software – and this latest development – read the full article: How Arturia made its music-making software more accessible.

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