Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

RDPFS Resources for Partners February 11, 2022

Black Excellence While Blind

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

February is Black History Month, and as such, it is important to highlight Black Excellence. The term “Black Excellence” serves to “celebrate specific examples of high level of achievement, success, or ability demonstrated by an individual Black person or by Black people in general,” as defined in in What Is ‘Black Excellence'? Here are two notable people from the blind and visually impaired community:

American politician David Alexander Paterson lost his eyesight when he was three months old and contracted an ear infection that extended to his optic nerves. “However, David didn’t allow his visual impairment to prevent him from achieving his dreams.” Paterson went on to receive his undergraduate degree from Columbia University and his JD from Hofstra University. In 1985, he was elected to the New York State Senate, serving as Minority Leader from 2003 to 2006. Paterson became Lieutenant Governor of New York in 2007. In 2008, he became the first legally blind person to serve as a U.S. Governor and also the first black Governor of New York State. To learn more about the life and accomplishments of David Paterson, check out his biography on Ballotpedia.

Another person of note, Rahsaan Roland Kirk, a famous musician and jazz multi-instrumentalist, lost his ability to see when he was two years old. As a boy, Kirk learned to play several instruments and “fell in love with jazz music.” By the time he was 15, Kirk was playing saxophone professionally. He not only played the instrument, but also invented a triple saxophone he dubbed the “‘Triple Threat,’ made from three different models of saxophones.” Later, in the 1970s, Kirk became an activist, leading the “Jazz and People's Movement,” and speaking at his concerts about controversial political topics, black history, and the civil rights movement. Although he suffered a stroke in 1975, becoming partially paralyzed, he modified his instruments and continued playing until he died in 1977. To learn more about the life and accomplishments of Rahsaan Roland Kirk, check out his biography on the Rahsaan Roland Kirk website.

Macular Degeneration, Vision Loss, and Art

When artists experience vision loss, “Often, an entirely new body of work emerges.” The Vision and Art Project, a program of The American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF), examines the influence macular degeneration and vision loss have had on art and artists currently active as well as in the past. They report that approximately 30 percent of artists experience a significant loss of vision by age 75. The works of past notables with macular degeneration, Georgia O’Keefe and Edgar Degas, reflect adaptations they made as they continued to create art, for example. O’Keefe, recognized as “America’s foremost woman painter,” continued to paint following her vision loss, as explained in an article reporting on a recent retrospective of her work shown first in Paris (and currently at the Fondation Beyeler in Basel, Switzerland): Georgia O'Keefe in Paris. In describing her own later work, O’Keefe noted: “'These paintings are from my seeing differently than I saw before…You may not see what you might have seen two years ago – but memory is good, so with what you see and what you remember – a piece of charcoal and some paper, you find yourself drawing…'” Sotheby’s website includes the full text of GEORGIA O'KEEFE: AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT, TITLED IN O'KEEFE'S HAND: "MY EYES AND PAINTING". Another artist, Thomas Sgouros, painted “’landscapes from memory’” when he was no longer able to paint still lives. Still more, like William Thon, gained new insights that revitalize subjects they covered previously utilizing new techniques. Thon began to paint using his sense of touch, relying on his fingers to “draw by feel.”  Read about these and other artists as well as support available to those with macular degeneration from the Vision and Art Project.

Remote Internships Currently Available

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

Finding employment can be difficult during a pandemic, especially if you don’t have much real-world work experience. If this sounds familiar, you may want to consider applying for a remote internship to gain confidence and to develop the valuable skills needed for you to excel in the workplace, from the comfort and privacy of your own home. If this interests you, here are three hot, remote internship positions available this year:

The Marcus Harris Foundation seeks four "Fundraising Assistant" interns. The internships are offered through Neighborhood Express, which provides free, healthy groceries, essential supplies, and social work supports for people living in food-insecure neighborhoods. Interns are expected to work five to ten hours per week coordinating and executing fundraising efforts for the program. Duties include communication with potential donors, incentivizing donations, networking, and advertising. The internship is paid and fully remote. It can begin as early as February 14, 2022 and lasts for 13 weeks. The positions have the possibility of converting to full-time positions upon completion. For more information about the Marcus Harris Foundation, check out their website. And to apply for the “Fundraising Assistant” internship, go to Chegg Internships: Internships.Com.

Greenwich Village Chelsea Chamber of Commerce (GVCCC) plans to bring on an intern as "Membership Coordinator." Interns are expected to work 16 to 20 hours per week, between 10 am and 6 pm. Duties include providing customer service, recruiting new members, sending out surveys, and assisting with raw data collection. This internship offers a $500 stipend, is fully remote, and takes place during the Spring. The start and duration of the position are at the discretion of GVCCC. For more information about the Greenwich Village Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, check out their website. And to apply for the "Membership Coordinator" internship, click on this link to Indeed.Com.

We Logo It! has an opening for an "Administrative Assistant" intern, who would be expected to answer and direct phone calls, organize and schedule appointments, write and distribute emails and memos, and develop and maintain a filing system. The internship start date is flexible, can last up to two years, and pays $18 to $20 USD per hour. For more information about We Logo It!, check out their website. And to apply for the "Administrative Assistant" internship, click this link to Chegg Internships: Internships.Com.

For more internship opportunities, see future issues of the Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation Resources for Partners Bulletin. Good luck and happy hunting!

Braille and Technology

Steady advances in technology, along with increased use of audiobooks, might lead to “A quick assumption…that the utilization of braille has decreased in recent years.” However, this tactile form of reading and writing for individuals who are visually impaired, relied on since the 1800s, has not only survived in the modern era, but “has since evolved from solely embossed paper to its incorporation in accessible technology.” The advent of technology has added new dimensions to the use of braille. An individual who is blind or has low vision may use braille to read and write, along with smart devices that read to them aloud, according to the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA). These advances have expanded the options for access and address “personal preferences for the use of assistive technology…(to) complement braille reader’s individual accessibility.” For example, Karen Arcos, who completed her Ph.D. in Cognitive Neuroscience with an emphasis on Chicano/Latino Studies from the University of California, Irvine (UCI), noted that she used braille every day in her studies. Dr. Arcos, who is totally blind, explained how she used different formats, stating that “’Braille on paper is especially useful when creating or interpreting tactile charts, tables and graphs. Reading braille digitally comes in handy for pleasure, like texting and when revising papers…'” Get additional details about her story and more in New University, the UCI campus newspaper: Braille's Place in the Age of Technology.

Learn How Electronic Braille Works in Webinar on February 28

The American Printing House for the Blind (APH) is hosting a one-hour webinar on “How Braille Works Electronically” on February 28, 2022, beginning at 12 noon Eastern Time (ET). This timely session promises to provide participants with a “deep understanding of electronic braille,” or braille that is “not on paper,” and to be able to deal with issues related to braille and electronic access for users who are blind or sighted. For more information, and to register, check out How Braille Works Electronically.

COVID, the CDC, and the #MyDisabledLifeIsWorthy Movement

by Jaime Rodriguez RDPFS Intern

In January, Rochelle Walensky, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), made a speech regarding the COVID-19 pandemic thus far, stating that a disproportionate number, more than 75% of COVID deaths, were “people who were unwell to begin with.” She suggested that this was “encouraging news” concerning deaths. The speech later aired on ABC’s Good Morning America. As expected, many people with chronic illnesses and/or disabilities expressed outrage about the assumption that people with preexisting illnesses and/or disabilities were disposable or expendable for the sake of returning to “normal” when the pandemic is finally deemed an endemic. ABC and the CDC attempted to run damage control, indicating that the interview had been edited. The outraged, however, took to Twitter using the hashtag #MyDisabledLifeIsWorthy, which brought a surge of people, children and adults, sharing personal feelings about the issue. Many expressed frustration that people were ready to cast off their masks and resume the lives they lived before COVID-19, despite knowing that some would still die, and that they believed those lives were acceptable losses as long as they could resume their lives and bolster the economy. More than 150 disability advocacy groups, along with the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, sent a letter to CDC Director Walensky, regarding the statement, requesting ongoing meetings with “disability stakeholders and CDC Leadership.” They also urged that the CDC base guidance regarding isolation in “public health evidence and data and in an understanding of their impacts on those most at risk” and that action be taken to ensure that “all COVID-19 guidance and other response efforts are inclusive of the needs of people with disabilities.” To date, a meeting with Director Walensky has been set up but no other significant action has been taken. Read the full document, "Letter From the Disability Community to CDC Director Rochelle Walensky" here. And read an article in The Mighty, "CDC Director's Comments About COVID Deaths Spur #MyDisabledLifeIsWorthy Movement" here.

Virtual “LOVE at the Tenement” Verbal Description Tour on February 16, 2022

Join in a Zoom discussion that will feature images and other historical references together with verbal description at this upcoming virtual tour from the Tenement Museum, located on New York City’s Lower East Side. This special program takes place on Wednesday, February 16, 2022, from 5:30 – 7:30 pm ET. Explore images of how intimate relationships thrived in the close communities of tenement life as you hear stories of “romantic and platonic relationships at 97 Orchard Street.” Learn about how dating, courting, and marriage were observed in earlier times and among different cultural groups. Tickets for the event are free, but registration is required. Registered participants will receive a Zoom link in advance of the program. For more information, or to register, email [email protected] or call their Call Center, open Monday through Saturday from 11 am to 4 pm ET at 877-975-3786.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

If you’re looking for some additional ideas for celebrating Valentine’s Day, here are a couple of suggestions from Independent Living Aids for people who are visually impaired:
Music can set the mood: Find something romantic to listen to, through a large-button CD player or other audio device. For adults and children, make up a song about the person you love;
Have fun with food: Try cooking together. A good resource to check out is Cooking Without Looking.
Check out these, as well as some more gift ideas in Three Great Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day With Someone Who Is Visually Impaired.

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