Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

RDPFS Resources for Partners Bulletin September 1, 2023

Music School Virtual Open House for New Students, Parents, and Educators, and Caregivers: September 6, 2023

The Filomen M. D’Agostino Greenberg Music School (The Fil or FMDG Music School) is holding a virtual open house for prospective students, parents, and educators on September 6, 2023 at 7 pm Eastern Time (ET). As the fall semester begins, learn about classes, lessons, and performance ensembles, available in person and virtually, as well as new offerings in tap dance, how to create computer code, and field trips to arts venues in New York City. The FMDG Music School helps people of all ages pursue the study of music while addressing the challenges posed by vision impairment. For more information and to RSVP to this online event, please email [email protected] or call 315-842-4489 to receive the Zoom meeting details. [...]

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Commemorating Labor Day 2023

by B.E. Lewis, RDPFS Intern: The first Monday in September, this year September 4, 2023, marks the annual celebration of “the social and economic achievements of American workers.” Since 1894 Labor Day has been a national holiday in the United States. For most of us, it means picnics, parades, a day off from work or the end of summer. But the day actually celebrates a long history of U.S. workers and their immense contributions to America’s prosperity. Labor Day’s commemoration as a holiday can be traced back to the late nineteenth century, when labor activists advocated for a federal holiday to recognize the many contributions made by workers to the nation’s “strength, prosperity, and well-being.” Originally observed in individual states, the first Labor Day holiday was celebrated in 1882 in New York City. By 1894, 23 additional states adopted the holiday, and two years later, President Grover Cleveland signed a law designating the first Monday in September of each year a national holiday. Since then, Labor Day has been commemorated, often with parades and other celebrations marking its significance. For more background on the history of the holiday, read the article from the U.S. Department of Labor on the History of Labor Day. Labor Day 2023 and Workers with Disabilities Individuals with disabilities make up a significant portion of the nation’s workforce and recent trends show that “people with disabilities are increasingly at work across the country.” A report from NBC News earlier this year noted that “disabled workers are among the biggest beneficiaries” of the labor market recovery following the loss of jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Unemployment levels among workers with disabilities have decreased (at 7.3 percent in March, 2023, down from 8.8 percent a year before),  although still higher than the national unemployment rate of 3.6 percent and the 3.7 percent rate among workers without disabilities. The increase in telework positions makes up some of the rise in employment among individuals with disabilities. Reports have shown that “disabled workers saw stronger job gains in telework positions than those without disabilities.” This trend may “simply reflect the boom in job openings but could also be the result of ‘systemic change’ that has made some jobs more accessible.” Accessibility in the workplace, whether the location is onsite or remote, can largely be achieved through reasonable accommodations, as required through the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), to allow employees with disabilities to experience equal employment opportunities. Accommodations vary, depending on the individual’s needs and the job. For employees who are blind or visually impaired, Perkins School for the Blind has provided some examples of accommodations that are often requested. Examples include: providing: assistive technology, such as scanners, magnifiers, and screen reading software; an accessible website, including employee portals, message boards, and other sites; and written materials in the employee’s accessible format, whether in braille, large print, or audio. For more information on employment trends, check out the NBC report explaining how the Disabled workforce expands thanks to the job boom — and long Covid as well as a research article in ScienceDirect addressing the question “How has COVID-19 impacted disability employment?” For the complete piece from Perkins School for the Blind, read their article on Workplace Accommodations. [...]

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New Online Resources on Workplace Flexibility and an Inclusive, Accessible, and Equitable Workplace Culture

In recent years, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic, workplace flexibility, in terms of where, when, and how work is done, has become increasingly common. These policies “support and attract many workers with disabilities.” Many organizations are offering employees more choices and seeking to create workplace environments that are more inclusive, accessible, and equitable. A new webpage published by the Employee Assistance and Resource Network on Disability Inclusion (EARN) describes the benefits of workplace flexibility. As organizations consider whether flexible workplace practices will be permanent, it is important to ensure that they are accessible and equitable, as well as sustainable. Workplace flexibility is beneficial to people with and without disabilities. Benefits include accommodating transportation needs, controlling the workplace and pace to boost productivity, and the ability to secure work in a larger geographic area with remote employment possibilities, to name a few. Many individuals with disabilities have found this flexibility particularly advantageous. This resource aims to help employers understand the advantages of a flexible workplace, types of flexibility, and what to consider when developing and implementing workplace policies. Three accompanying issue briefs elaborate specifically on the intersecting issues of workplace flexibility and caregiving, transportation, and equity. To find out more, visit the new webpage, which includes links to the issue briefs, to Learn how workplace flexibility helps creates an inclusive, accessible, and equitable workplace culture. [...]

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Free Virtual Courses and Webinars on Vision Available Far and Wide

The beginning of the school year offers an opportunity to explore the growing selection of virtual learning opportunities. Numerous programs can be accessed by individuals with vision loss, as well as professionals, family members, and others. Following is a sampling of providers of online courses and webinars offered at no charge. American Printing House for the Blind: “Webinars for Everyone” American Printing House for the Blind (APH), through its Access Academy, offers tutorials on new products and technology, along with information on resources, services, and programs for home, the classroom, and the workplace. Presenters include APH experts as well as other professionals covering a wide range of topics. Examples, available through APH’s YouTube Page, include “Teaching Reading and Writing Using Building on Patterns,” “Laptime and Lullabies: Sharing the Joys of Literacy with Young Children who are Blind or Low Vision,” and “How Braille Works Electronically,” to name a few. Learn more by visiting the APH webpages on their Access Academy and Webinars for Everyone. Braille Institute ​Virtual workshops are provided free of charge and are open to the public. Topics include life skills, technology, arts & healthy living, and more. Upcoming sessions include: On September 8, 2023 from 10 to 11:30 am PT (1 to 2:30 pm ET): Understanding Vision Loss; On September 11, 2023 from 10 to 11 am PT (1 to 2 pm ET): Intro to JAWS for Windows; On September 13, 2023: from 10 to 11 am PT (1 to 2 pm ET): Principles of Contrast On September 14, 2023 from 1:30 to 3 pm PT (4:30 to 6 pm ET): (link); Using The Voice Memo App with VoiceOver; and On September 18, 2023 from 10 am to 11 am PT (1 to 2 pm ET): Intro to Seeing AI App. For more information and a complete list of upcoming programs, visit the Braille Institute webpage on Workshops and Events for the Blind and Visually Impaired. “Focus” Talks An on-demand webcast series, “Focus” Talks provide opportunities to learn at any time about topics related to eye care, vision, and vision loss. This resource, a cooperative effort of the Massachusetts Commission for the Blind (MCB) and the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services (DDS), is part of the MCB/DDS Partnership Project for Orientation and Mobility/Low Vision Services. Presentations are accessed via the Zoom platform, featuring professionals from Massachusetts; however, they are available to users from any location. Topics covered include environmental modification to improve functional vision, lighting, assistive technology assessments, nutrition, and many more. For additional details, and links to specific talks, visit the webpage for “Focus” Talks. The “Focus” website also provides some information about online courses for a fee on the page covering Online Courses and Webinars. Foundation Fighting Blindness Webinars on a wide range of topics are held periodically by the Foundation Fighting Blindness, with recordings of previous sessions available to professionals and to the public. Recent sessions included such topics as “Managing Your Retinal Degenerative Disease,” “Low Vision Resources,” and “Clinical Trials,” to name a few. Additional listings and links of recordings are available on the Foundation Fighting Blindness webpage on their National Chapter Vision Seminars. Hadley Hadley offers individuals who are blind or visually impaired online academic and enrichment workshops free of charge. Available programs cover a wide range of topics, related to daily living, adjusting to vision loss, technology, working, recreation, and braille. Examples include series on cooking, managing medications, low vision features on smart phones, working with screen readers, and much more. Audio podcasts and discussion groups are available as well. Find out more here about Hadley’s online learning programs. Helen Keller National Center The Online Learning Department at Helen Keller National Center offers educational tools and information as a resource to deafblind individuals as well as family members, providers, and other individuals. Learning tools include recordings on such topics as: Introducing Advocacy in the DeafBlind World, a series for consumers, family members, and providers; “Communications Technology for People who are DeafBlind,” with a version with closed captioning and descriptive visual information and one featuring a sign language interpreter; and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), a seven-part series summarizing the ADA. Additional information and programs are included on Helen Keller National Center’s webpage on  Online Learning Tools. Perkins School for the Blind Perkins School for the Blind features many video presentations and webinars on its website. Video offerings include units on mobile apps, such as the APH “BrailleBuzz” and “Word Melodies” for reading and writing; creative ways to learn braille; and how to “Track changes with JAWS.” For a comprehensive list of videos, visit the Perkins webpages on Video: All Topics. Once on the page, you can indicate specific topics of interest, such as “At-Help for Families,” Career readiness,” “Literacy,” and “Success Stories.” Several videos cover CVI (cortical vision impairment), the leading cause of pediatric vision loss, featuring what CVI is, research updates, conferences, and more. Navigate directly to these listings here for Videos on CVI. Webinars on a wide range of topics are available as well, such as preparing for preschool, workplace-related topics, and how educators can support students who are college bound and are visually impaired. To check out these sessions, visit the webpages beginning here on Webinars. Note to Readers: If you have information about additional virtual events and other programs available free of charge on vision rehabilitation and related topics, please contact [email protected]. [...]

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Building Braille Literacy Brick by Brick

by B. E. Lewis, RDPFS Intern: In the spirit of its credo of “learning through play,” the toymaker LEGO is selling braille-inscribed LEGO bricks directly to the public for the first time. Since 2020 the special bricks have been available exclusively to institutions and schools for children who are visually impaired. Beginning today, September 1, 2023, the company is releasing LEGO® Braille Bricks – Play with Braille to the broader consumer market. The product is available in English and French with additional languages coming next year. Kids ages six and older, whether they are blind, have low vision, or sighted, are the target audience, but LEGO says that the bricks are “designed so that anyone “can have fun getting to know the braille system at home with their family members in a playful, inclusive way.” Bricks come in five colors: white, yellow, green, red, and blue. All are compatible with other LEGO products and the studs on each brick are arranged to correspond to the numbers and letters in the braille system, with the printed version of the symbol or letter below the studs. The Braille Bricks were developed by the LEGO Foundation, the LEGO Group, and partners from the international blind and educational communities. Martine Abel-Williamson, President, World Blind Union, remarks: “For the blind community, braille is not just literacy, it’s our entry to independence and inclusion into this world,” adding that “…because it’s based on a product that so many families already know and love, this is really an invitation for all family members to have fun building tactile skills and getting familiar with braille using the same tool.” The product may be purchased for $89.99. Read more in the news release about Bringing Braille Fun Home: LEGO® Braille Bricks on Sale for the First Time. The LEGO webpage Introducing LEGO® Braille Bricks also features instructions about how to use the braille blocks learning kit, including ideas for Pre-braille and Braille activities, along with a link to a Community BLOG for professionals. Information is also available from LEGO Foundation partner, The American Printing House for the Blind at their webpage on LEGO® Braille Bricks: fun, interactive learning through play. [...]

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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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Happy Labor Day: Enjoy the holiday and the weekend!