Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

RDPFS Resources for Partners August 6, 2021

Career Training Opportunities

Become a Screen Reader Tester

Thanks to the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), websites, mobile apps and documents must be accessible to all users. People with disabilities can provide valuable input to companies as they design and code their digital offerings to ensure that these features are useful to users and meet accessibility requirements. The Carroll Center for the Blind now offers a Screen Reader User Tester Training Program to prepare job seekers to find employment in the field of digital accessibility. Screen reader testers are individuals who are experienced users of screen reading software and understand accessibility in desktop as well as mobile environments. They can “identify accessibility barriers and communicate issues to developers as well as non-technical stakeholders so that accessibility problems can be remediated.” The Carroll Center for the Blind’s six-week training program will provide instruction to increase the user’s skills and knowledge related to digital accessibility – and increase employment opportunities within the Digital Accessibility Industry. Participants will have an opportunity to apply for a paid remote internship with My Blind Spot, a nonprofit firm that consults with public and private organizations to deliver “accessibility solutions.” For more information and to apply, check out The Carroll Center for the Blind's Screen Reader Tester Training Program

Blind Leaders Development Program

Applications are now available for the second Blind Leaders Development Program, sponsored by the American Foundation for the Blind (AFB). AFB invites early to mid-career applicants with vision loss who seek to develop their leadership skills as Fellows as well as those who are mid- or late career individuals who are blind or have low vision with leadership experience to act as mentors. AFB aims to increase the number of professionals who are blind in positions of leadership at work as well as in their community. For more information about being a Fellow or a Mentor and to apply, visit Contact [email protected] with any questions.

Scholarships for New York State Students Who Are Legally Blind

The American Council of the Blind of New York (ACBNY) will be awarding a scholarship of $1,000 and a $500 scholarship to students in the state who are legally blind. To be eligible, students must be enrolled in good standing in a college, trade school or other post-high school training program. The application deadline is September 10, 2021. For more information and to apply: ACBNY Scholarship Application.

App Updates

BlindSquare: Providing Navigation Guidance Worldwide

By Nikhil Vohra

BlindSquare, an iOS navigation app designed for people who are blind, deafblind, and partially sighted, is a tool used by thousands of individuals across the globe. Available in 25 languages, the app uses data from OpenStreetMap, which provides worldwide map data, and Foursquare, the independent location data platform, to provide users with information about their surroundings that they can use to travel independently. The app’s features include the ability to set a destination and hear directions and updates on the progress of the commute, the option to save favorite locations, and the ability to shake the device to hear one’s current location and information about nearby intersections and venues. BlindSquare works with iOS VoiceOver to communicate relevant information, and it can be linked to a braille display for tactile output. Moreover, BlindSquare can communicate with third-party public transportation and ride-sharing apps in order to look up public transportation schedules or hail a cab. Based in Finland, the app’s development team is always looking for feedback in order to further improve the software. A demo version is available at no cost, with a fee for the full app. Learn more on BlindSquare’s official site.

Swordy: A New Accessible Game

By Ahmat Djouma

Swordy Quest is a fully accessible game developed by Seligman Ventures Global Limited.  You are placed in a land surrounded by mountains, forest, and a lake.  Your job is to survive. You must gather food to be able to eat, craft weapons to hunt and defend yourself from any attacks like the dragon, and obtain resources to be able to upgrade your materials. This game was released not too long ago, but already has attracted a great community of players. The developer has a Facebook group with more than 500 players and he constantly seeks input from players to improve the game.  Feel free to download Swordy Quest from Apple AppStore

AfterGlow Access, the Sonification Software

by Nikhil Vohra

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the IDATA Project (Innovators Developing Accessible Tools in Astronomy) aims to support the learning and participation of people who are blind, visually impaired, and sighted in the field of astronomy. The project’s recently updated flagship product, now called AfterGlow Access, is a sonification tool—a software that produces auditory, rather than visual, representations of data.  Its mission is to allow the blind and sighted alike to explore the images captured by space telescopes via sound. A member of the project’s team, Timothy Spuck from Associated Universities, Inc., recently joined Jeff Thompson on the Blind Abilities podcast to discuss the program and its potential to revolutionize science education and data analysis. Spuck begins by explaining that telescopes do not simply “see” pretty pictures of outer space when they are pointed into the night sky. Rather, they collect numerical data from the light they capture, and a computer takes this data and transforms it into pictures of outer space. At this part of the process, AfterGlow Access steps in. Instead of simply turning the data into an image by means of data visualization, the program turns the raw numbers collected by the telescope into sound via sonification. Spuck says, “[Y]ou often hear a picture is worth 1000 words, well, how many words is a song worth?” The software sweeps across the data that are transformed into image pixels row by row, emitting a stream of sound that encodes information about each pixel as it moves from left to right, from the bottom row of pixels to the top. Pitch, volume, and timing are employed to convey the state of a pixel (i.e., its position and brightness), and with training, a listener can make out a mental representation of the image. The process sounds complicated, but Spuck says that he and his team have had success in communicating data in this way. To listen to the podcast, which includes some examples of sounds made by the software, visit the Blind Abilities podcast site. To try the free, browser-based AfterGlow Access software for yourself, visit the IDATA Resources page. Note that either a Google account or Skynet account is required to try the software.

Study Reveals Gaps in Federal Government Website Accessibility

by Nikhil Vohra

Nearly a third of Federal government websites tested in a recent study failed to meet the minimum accessibility standards mandated by Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act on their home pages. Going beyond the homepages, the study, conducted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) , found that about half of government sites failed to meet the standards when analyzing the second and third top pages. Thankfully, the White House and CDC domains met the minimum standards, although the study reports a general lack of adequate accessibility on Federal government sites. Since the start of the pandemic, many government services were moved online, including Social Security and passport renewals and others. Gaps in digital accessibility represent barriers to those services – as well as obstacles to critical information – for the millions of Americans living with disabilities. You can read more about the study on the Federal Computers Week site, which also published a deeper analysis of the study’s results and explored the underlying problems causing this digital divide.

First-Ever UN Resolution on Vision Impairment

The General Assembly of the United Nations “unanimously adopted the first-ever UN resolution on vision impairment, committing access to eye healthcare for the 1.1 billion people living with preventable sight loss by 2030.” Entitled “Vision for Everyone: Accelerating Action to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” the resolution resulted from the work of Friends of Vision, an informal group of individuals at the UN who advocate for increased access to eye care for more than two billion people living with visual impairment. Permanent Representative of Bangladesh to the UN Ambassador Rabab Fatima introduced the resolution on behalf of Friends of Vision. This action represents the “first agreement of the members of this highest global body that is designed to tackle preventable sight loss,” according to the Bangladesh Mission at the UN. In dedicating the resolution to people throughout the world who are visually impaired, Ambassador Fatima urged all nations to ensure full access to eye care services for their populations. Read more about the first-ever UN resolution on vision impairment.

Paralympian Joel Gomez Prepares for Tokyo and College

Track and field athlete Joel Gomez made it through the Paralympic trials in Minneapolis and will head to Tokyo on August 11th as a member of Team USA in this year’s Paralympics. Born with blue cone monochromacy, a rare genetic condition that affects the retina, Gomez has been legally blind and severely color blind since he was born. He has dealt with – and overcome – challenges in achieving success on the track and in academia. Gomez, who lives in Encinitas, CA, cannot distinguish the features of someone a few feet away, for example. In school, he struggled to read the whiteboard, being unable to see the blue on white, having to “explain to the teacher, use a black marker please. Trust me, it’s more difficult than just asking.”  In his athletic pursuits, he has represented his country as a member of the US Paralympic Track and Field Team in Switzerland, Peru and Dubai, “earning two gold medals and one silver medal in the 1500m and 400m events.” In Tokyo, Gomez will run a preliminary race on August 30. “The 1500 finals – which he’s confident of making – are the next day.” After Tokyo, he will begin college at Purdue University in the fall, where he plans to study industrial engineering. His academic achievements have also been recognized with a scholarship from Lighthouse Guild, as reported in The Coast News article "Encinitas Paralympian earns scholarship, prepares for Tokyo Games." Read more about this young athlete’s Paralympics achievements and goals in the Times of San Diego: "Gomez is Tokyo-Bound..."

Water Skiing in Oklahoma

Water skiing, a popular summer pastime, calls for a combination of balance, focus on keeping your feet parallel and the ski tips out of the water, to name a few of the challenging skills required. It is not, however, a “sport that cares if you have 20/20 vision – it’s about the joy of standing up, of being out on the water, and of doing something you didn’t realize you could do.” So states in its web story entitled "Visually-Impaired Kids Learn to Water Ski Thanks to Oklahoma Nonprofit." The organization sponsoring waterskiing for campers, NewView Oklahoma, has been teaching campers who are visually impaired how to water ski for the past six years. Water skiing instruction is part of the offerings of O.W.L. (Oklahomans Without Limits) Camp, one of NewView’s summer camps. Read more about water skiing instruction and other camping experiences: OWL Camp 2021.

On the Lighter Side: Vacation Tips for Nonprofit Professionals

Since it’s peak vacation season and you’re reading this bulletin, you may not be in full relaxation/vacation mode. In a nod to nonprofit professionals who “suck at vacationing,” Nonprofit AF featured a few clever tips for readers. Among them: “Make a logic model with short, mid and long-term relaxation goals…” “Make a two-page to-do list of enjoyment and relaxation…” “…be sure to sign your out of office response as ‘I will have limited contact to email,’ but check and return emails every day.” Sound familiar? Check out these and other "Vacation Tips." And enjoy your “time off!”