Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

RDPFS Resources for Partners December 17, 2021

From the Desk of Jason Eckert

Executive Director of Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation

The holiday season is a time for gathering with friends and family, sharing what we are thankful for and making plans for the year to come. It is the time of year when we feel gratitude for life’s blessings and anticipation for the future, and express what is in our hearts and minds to those around us.

Thank you for being part of the BVI (Blind and Visually Impaired) community and for your partnership with Readers Digest Partners for Sight Foundation. If we have learned anything from the trials and challenges over the recent year or more, it is appreciation for people like you who are supportive of the Readers Digest Partners for Sight mission. You enable all of us, collectively to touch lives and provide opportunities to individuals who are blind or vision impaired, moving all who desire it towards self-fulfillment, empowerment, and independence.

On behalf of the board of directors and staff, I thank you for being YOU and for being part of the work of Readers Digest Partners for Sight Foundation. We look forward to continuing to work together and to build community. May you, your family, and your loved ones have a joyful holiday season and a new year filled with health and happiness.

Traveling for the Holidays? Here are Some Tips

If you are planning a trip for the holidays – or anytime – a few pointers, offered by Everyday Sight for people who are visually impaired, can be helpful. Packing light is always a good option, especially for plane travel, to avoid the baggage area and “begin your trip on a relaxed note.” You can also add a brightly colored sticker, fluorescent tape, or a colored ribbon to your luggage. While in flight, or at a hotel, be sure to ask for what you will need. For example, if you notify the airline that you have a visual disability, they can have someone available to provide support, if you need it, when boarding. When arranging for lodging, ask about tactile signs, Braille menus, or any other accommodations. When getting around at your destination, an app like BlindSquare, available from the App Store for $39.99, can be used to navigate or, for free apps, check out Google Maps and Yelp. For details on these and other suggestions, read 11 Travel Tips for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

Holiday Shopping Advice

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

With the holidays fast approaching, many  shoppers are rushing to buy those final gifts we need for our loved ones. This can be challenging for those of us with vision loss. With that in mind, The Chicago Lighthouse provides some pointers to make your last-minute shopping easier:
1) If you’re planning on visiting a physical store, pre-plan your transportation, whether you’re taking an Uber or a cab, relying on a ride from a friend or family member, or even taking public transit. It is also wise to plan for the best method of transportation based on your shopping needs.
2) Plan ahead if you need assistance in a store. Call the store(s) to ask for someone to assist you when you’re there. Or check into where to ask for help in the store once you arrive.
3) Consider shopping with friends or family. They can be an invaluable resource because they may already know your preferences and can help describe gift ideas like jewelry and clothing. Shopping with your loved ones can also make for a fun shopping trip.
4) Consider shopping online at big-box stores like Target or Walmart that offer in-store pickup or curbside delivery options. You can shop independently from the convenience of your own home using your computer or another internet-connected device with a screen reader.
5) And finally, you can shop online using assistive technology and opt for home delivery. Be aware that many online retailers have shipping deadlines for Christmas deliveries and that there may be shipping delays.

Here are some helpful apps for shopping and traveling independently:
Lazzus gives users who are visually impaired real-time updates regarding their surroundings and can assist in locating local businesses or transit stops, increasing independence and mobility. Download the Lazzus app here on the iOS App Store for Apple products or here on the Google Play Store for Android.

Mapp4All uses GPS technology to allow users who are blind or visually impaired to move around their environment independently, describing transit options, local businesses, and even potential dangers in the area. Download the Mapp4All app here on the Google Play Store for Android.

Be My Eyes connects users who are visually impaired to sighted volunteers who can assist through live video calls while shopping. Download the Be My Eyes app here on the iOS App Store for Apple products or here on the Google Play Store for Android.

Resources for Job Retention and Career Advancement

Checklists from the National Technical Assistance Center on Blindness and Low Vision (NRTC) are available to assist vocational rehabilitation (VR) professionals in assessing the need for career advancement or job retention services for clients with visual disabilities. NRTC, a program of Mississippi State University, developed these checklists that can be used during intake for clients who are employed. They cover questions concerning such issues as worker satisfaction, support systems, licensing and certification requirements for positions, career goals, and more. For those workers who secure employment later in the VR process, the checklists may help VR professionals to determine if they have any job retention or advancement needs prior to closing their cases. In addition to the checklists, the technical assistance center has developed a collection of resources for professionals and for persons with vision loss (PDF) that address common challenges to career advancement and job retention, including online training courses, publications, and other practical information. For more information, and to access the checklists, visit NRTC’s Job Retention and Career Advancement Resources.

Bookshare Now Available for Smart Speakers

The Bookshare ebook library can now be accessed through Alexa-enabled smart speakers and devices “to enjoy the world’s largest ebook library for people with reading barriers.” Users can use voice-enabled tools to open Bookshare Reader and begin reading a book. Those using the Reader can link to their library account, list books on the Alexa Reading List, listen to books read aloud, stop reading, save their reading spot, and adjust reading speed. Bookshare membership is available for $50 per year or, if you are a student, for free. To learn more about Bookshare and the Bookshare Reader, including a step-by-step guide on how to listen to books on Alexa-enabled smart speakers and devices, go to Bookshare Reader for Smart Speaker.

Envision Has Acquired the College Success Program

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

The College Success Program (CSP), a national virtual college preparedness and success program for students who are blind and visually impaired, has been acquired by Envision. CSP, formerly a Learning Ally program, will become part of Envision’s Workforce Innovation Center, providing a resource to students “both inside the classroom and out” and offering assistance to students in “managing their support networks.” Envision offers educational and career resources to members aimed at improving the college graduation statistics of people who are blind and visually impaired, a statistic that currently stands at less than 15 percent for bachelor’s degrees, according to the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). The College Success Program includes access to educational resources, webinars, a podcast, weekly meetups, a network of peers and mentors, and Learning Ally’s audiobook library. The programs and services provided by Envision’s College Success Program are provided free of charge. To become a member, click here to register. Read more about this news at Envision College Success Program.

Getting Around Safely in Winter Weather

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

Winter weather can pose challenges for pedestrians who are blind, especially once the snow settles, making it difficult to detect familiar tactile clues and to maneuver the long cane. Pedestrians who are blind understand that traveling on foot with snow on the ground poses a host of challenges, from canes not being able to locate familiar landmarks, to canes getting stuck on snow. A study originally published in the Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (JVIB) sought to determine the best cane tips for performance in winter weather conditions. All study participants were legally blind, knew basic cane techniques, and were familiar with traveling in the snow. They used a variety of canes and cane tips, including bundu basher (all-terrain) tips, marshmallow roller tips, metal glide tips, and rollerball tips. The study evaluated the type of cane tips used and their frequency of sticking or veering in the snow, as well as the ease of making a roundtrip walk through snow depths. Researchers found that cane tips had similar sticking frequency in both dry and wet conditions and that participants’ preferences were similar in different weather conditions. Of the cane tips studied, participants favored the rollerball tip for use in snow. The remaining cane tips, in order of preference, were the marshmallow roller, bundu basher (all-terrain), and the metal glide. So, if you find yourself struggling with winter travel conditions, you may consider using a rollerball tip, based on its being preferred among study participants.

Rose Bowl Game and Parade Will Air with Audio Description

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

The Pasadena Tournament of Roses is hosting the grand return of its annual New Year’s Day celebration on January 1, 2022, featuring the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl. After last year’s disappointing cancellation due to the pandemic, this year’s festivities are a much-anticipated return to normalcy. This marks the 133rd annual Rose Parade, taking place between 8 am and noon PST (Pacific Standard Time) on January 1, 2022. The parade, sponsored by Honda and hosted by Grand Marshal, actor LeVar Burton, will feature flower-adorned floats, 22 marching bands, and 18 equestrian units. The 108th annual Rose Bowl Game follows the parade at 2 pm PST. The game, sponsored by Capital One Venture X, will be played between Big Ten Conference representatives The Ohio State Buckeyes and the Pac-12 Conference champions the Utah Utes 10-2. This marks the Utah Utes’ first appearance in the Rose Bowl, which should be thrilling, as the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Utah Utes haven't faced each other since 1986 when Ohio State beat Utah 64-6. Both the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl will air on ESPN, ABC, NBC, and Univision with real-time audio description provided by Audio Eyes. Plans call for the information on how to access the audio description to be provided by each of the host networks on the day of the event.

Apply Now for a 2022 STEM Internship

Applications are now being accepted by AAPD (American Association of People with Disabilities) for the Summer 2022 AAPD-Microsoft STEM Internship Program. They are seeking two interns with backgrounds in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) for the program, which is supported by Microsoft and is part of AAPD’s regular Summer Internship Program. Interns will receive a living stipend, transportation to and from Washington, DC, and housing that is fully accessible or, if remote, a technology stipend. Interns are matched with a Microsoft staff member as their mentor. The application deadline is January 10, 2022 at 5 pm ET. For more information and to apply, check out the 2022 AAPD-Microsoft STEM Summer Internship Program.

Partner in the News

Camp Abilities Brockport, now in its 27th year, was recently featured on HBO Real Sports. The segment is available on the following link below with the password “realsports”: vimeo Camp Abilities Update. A week-long educational sports camp for children with visual impairments, Camp Abilities Brockport will run from June 26 – July 2, 2022. Registration for campers and coaches for the upcoming season starts on January 1st. For more information, go to Camp Abilities.

World Braille Day: January 4, 2022

Louis Braille was born on January 4, 1809. His name, of course, is synonymous with the tactile code utilized by people who are blind and visually impaired worldwide to access reading material. We are thankful to Louis Braille and salute his accomplishments on World Braille Day, January 4, 2022. For more on the history and significance of this event, read WORLD BRAILLE DAY - January 4, 2022 - National Today

Looking for More Holiday Gift Ideas? Consider Giving a Holiday Gift of Select Editions Large Type Books

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Note to Readers: This is the last bulletin we are publishing in 2021. The next issue of Resources for Partners will be sent to you on Friday, January 7, 2022.

Have a wonderful holiday season and happy and healthy New Year!