by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
Winter is on its way once again, and so are the recurrent challenges for navigation and safety for people who are visually impaired. Fortunately, plenty of sites around the Web offer ideas and suggestions for best safety practices. In particular, Sight Scotland has recommendations that can be useful for those with some remaining vision. Along with the usual tips for cane users in cold and snow, they recommend wearing glare shields or a brimmed or skip hat, carrying a small guide cane and a flashlight during the increased hours of darkness, and wearing reflective clothing that is easily detected by drivers.
Webinar: Individual Wayfinding in the Context of Visual Impairment, Blindness, and Deafblindness
Those who are interested in safety have more than simple lists of suggestions at their fingertips. On Thursday, December 15, 2022, the National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) is holding a free webinar called “Individual Wayfinding in the Context of Visual Impairment, Blindness, and Deafblindness.” Primarily intended for mobility professionals but also of interest to those with vision loss, this webinar presents research from Portland State University regarding how people with visual impairment navigate an urban college campus, both indoors and out, and what these studies say about navigation preferences. It will be held from 10 am to 11 am PT (1 pm to 2 pm ET). Here is the link to register for the webinar.
On December 13, 2022 at 7:30 pm ET, Perkins School for the Blind is celebrating the holiday season with its Annual Holiday Concert. The program will feature choral and instrumental works from the Perkins Student Chorus, Music Makers, and Handbell Ensemble. For more information, and to tune into the livestream, visit the Perkins webpage describing the Annual Holiday Concert.
On December 15, 2022 from 5 to 7 pm PT (8 to 10 pm ET), the Enchanted Hills Camp (EHC) Alumni Holiday Concert will take place online for the third year in a row. EHC is a program of the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired (San Francisco). Musicians who have attended camp sessions, music camp, or have been camp counselors or volunteers will join LightHouse and ECH staff members in this celebration, which will be offered through the Enchanted Hills Camp Facebook page. (No Facebook account is needed to participate). For additional details, visit the LightHouse listing for the Enchanted Hills Camp Alumni Holiday Concert.
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
Following is coverage of two additional sessions from the Carroll Center for the Blind’s Technology Fair, hosted in person and virtually on November 22, 2022, and adding to this Bulletin's earlier coverage of the fair. Please note that all presentations from the event are available on the Carroll Center’s website, but as they are Facebook Live videos, please also note that the audio quality is not as clear as that of other webinars.
Windows Screen Reader Tips and Tricks
David Kingsbury, assistive technology instructor at the Carroll Center, discussed the second edition of his upcoming book, Windows Screen Reader Primer, due to be released in January 2023. The book covers the basics of using JAWS, NVDA, and Microsoft Narrator with common applications in Windows 10 and Windows 11. Among the most notable innovations in this edition are a new distribution format and new chapters on using Zoom and cloud-sharing services. The new edition, as is now true of the current one, will be made available as a free download from the online Carroll Store. Kingsbury also described three of his favorite things added to his book, including a JAWS feature that allows the user to view and manipulate text spoken by the synthesizer such as status messages, viewing and reassignment of keyboard shortcuts in Zoom, and the new natural-sounding voices for the Microsoft Narrator screen reader in Windows 11.
Benefits of Using Smartphone Apps
Alexis Malkin, OD, FAAO, Assistant Professor of Clinical Optometry at New England College of Optometry, gave a presentation on the use of technology and smartphone apps by individuals with low vision. She began by noting that two- thirds of people receiving low vision services reported difficulty reading as their primary concern. In contrast, complaints regarding technology were most important for only about five percent of those in a 2014 study, with the proportion increasing markedly in 2020 as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Studies have also examined the common but false belief that older adults do not use technology. In a recent email survey of clients, with low vision, most of whom were older adults, 95 percent reported they found apps helpful and 90 percent found them accessible. In Dr. Malkin’s study, 92 percent of people owned a smartphone before starting the study. When asked why they had not been using recommended apps previously, two thirds cited lack of knowledge, and another 20 percent had not had adequate training. These results show that lack of app use is not related to stigma, disinterest, or fear. iOS and Android are similar to each other when it comes to technological innovation, and Android has become more accessible than ever with a range of font customizations, optical character recognition (OCR), audio descriptions, built-in currency identification, and the option to navigate the screen by using a switch, among other features. After highlighting various customization options for each operating system, Dr. Malkin mentioned the specific uses reported for each of three apps: Aira, which allows a user to get on-demand help from a dedicated agent; SuperVision+, an additional magnifier currently only for iOS; and Seeing AI, another iOS app that scans text and barcodes, identifies currency, detects color and light, recognizes faces, and so on. She concluded by discussing the importance of the training process for low-vision clients with this technology.
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
The American Council of the Blind (ACB) held its second annual Audio Description Awards Gala on November 30, 2022. ACB’s Audio Description Awards Committee selected the honorees, recognizing them as “audio description content leaders and media industry game changers.” Eric Bridges, Executive Director of ACB, stated, “’We are proud to host the second annual Audio Description Awards Gala to recognize excellence in audio described content and celebrate the growing commitment to accessible media for people who are blind and (have) low vision.’” The eight awards winners included Microsoft, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Telemundo/Hearst, DisneyPlus/Lucasfilm/Audio Description By Deluxe, Paramount Global, Larry Goldberg and the Described and Captioned Media Program. The Gala was hosted by audio description narrator Thomas Reid and special guests included Stevie Wonder and actors Ewan McGregor, Nesta Cooper, Shayla Brown, Camryn Manheim, and the cast of the TV sitcom ICarly. ACB President Dan Spoone closed the event by thanking the sponsors, which included Silver Star Sponsors Amazon, Disney, Microsoft, Paramount Global, Warner Bros. Discovery and Bronze Star Sponsors Charter Spectrum, Keyword Studios, Fox, as well as the National Association of Broadcasters. You can find more details about the event in the ACB’s press release on the 2022 Audio Description Awards.
Every week Northwest Association for Blind Athletes (NWABA) leads virtual workouts online Monday-Friday at 12 noon Pacific Time (3 pm Eastern Time) at no charge via Zoom. All sessions are high contrast and audio described. Participating athletes from across the country can connect with one another while working out. Join from the comfort of your own home or anywhere. The space needed for each workout is the length of a yoga mat. The weekly schedule includes:
Mondays – Core Stability: focuses on strengthening the core muscles, the foundation for all exercise. This class typically has a Pilates-style flow with occasional abdominal circuits (one exercise after another).
Tuesdays – Circuit Workout: usually consists of four circuits of exercise, creating a full body strength workout.
Wednesdays – Dance Aerobics: encompasses dance fitness through exercise and dance moves, with different sequences of moves and switches called out as the music plays.
Thursdays – Cardio: keeps participants moving throughout this cardio workout, completing exercises with active rest in between.
Fridays – Yoga: concludes the week with a relaxing yoga session led by an athlete with NWABA who is a certified yoga instructor.
Geographic atrophy (GA), an advanced form of dry age-related macular degeneration (AMD), affects central vision and can lead to progressive, permanent vision loss. To increase public knowledge about GA, Prevent Blindness has announced the second Geographic Awareness Week, from December 5 to 11, 2022. A variety of resources are available in English and Spanish, including a fact sheet that can be downloaded and shareable social media graphics, as well as a dedicated webpage on GA. In addition, “Geographic Atrophy and Patient Support," a new episode in the Prevent Blindness Focus on “Eye Health Expert Series,” is now available. It features Sherry Williams, past president of the Prevent Blindness, Ohio Affiliate, discussing her experience as a health professional and her personal story of helping her mother, who has GA. Another episode on GA is also available, featuring Prevent Blindness CEO Jeff Todd interviewing Dr. Janet S. Sunness, director of the Richard E. Hoover Low Vision Rehabilitation Services at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center, who directed a National Institutes of Health (NIH)-funded study of GA. For more information, read the News item announcing Prevent Blindness Declares Second Annual Geographic Awareness Week as December 5-11, 2022.
Looking at Disability in the Eye Through Film
Filmmaker James Robinson traces the beginning of his career with an effort to “push others to overcome their discomfort with our conditions…” In a recent Opinion piece in The New York Times, Robinson recalls: “For the first 24 years of my life, it felt like no one knew how to look into my misguided eyes.” He explains that although most people’s eyes focus together to perceive depth, his are “independent, leaving (his) brain to alternate between them.” This results in words shifting when he reads and “chasing objects that appear to jump within my field of vision.” For Robinson, the medium of film was the answer. He produced a film during his senior year of college to illustrate what he was seeing. The problem, he explains, is not the way he sees, but “’with the way I’m seen.’” The resulting production, “Whale Eyes,” was so named because people are not bothered by the fact that when viewing whales we can only look at one of their eyes at a time. Opinion Video released the film in July 2021. Robinson points out that allowing viewers to observe his face close up, “free from the taboo of staring,” provides other opportunities for the audience to “experience life through (his) eyes while learning how they, too, can adapt.” In this way, film provides a vehicle to forge a relationship between people with and without disabilities. This past year, Robinson created “’Adapt-Ability,’” a series of three short films to help close the social gaps between people with and without disabilities. One of them, about Yvonne Short, who is blind, was covered in this Bulletin in a piece describing her experience entitled “I Am Going Blind. This is What I Want You to See:” Expanding the Definition of Blindness. For the full Opinion Piece, visit The New York Times webpage on how Film Can Help Us Look Disability in the Eye.
Check Out the Film: “Whale Eyes”
To access the film “Whale Eyes,” which originated as a student film project at Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies (CDS), visit the Duke Trinity College of Arts and Sciences webpage link to How Life Looks Through My Whale Eyes. It’s also available with audio description on You Tube as I Have a Visual Disability, And I Want You To Look Me In the Eye | NYT Opinion. For descriptive video, go to settings – audio track and select “’English descriptive.’”
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