Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

RDPFS Resources for Partners January 14, 2022

Reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., The Civil Rights Movement and the Disability Rights Movement

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

As this coming Monday, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day approaches, we can reflect on Dr. King’s many accomplishments in advancing civil rights and creating an equitable world for minorities. When people hear the terms “civil rights” and “minorities,” most think about skin color, not disabilities. However, the largest minority group in the U.S., people with disabilities, have a lengthy history of marginalization. “Similar to the way that racial segregation in schools was touted as ‘separate but equal,’ children with disabilities were relegated to ‘special classes’ or homeschooling.” So while people with disabilities were neither enslaved nor lynched, “we mustn't forget the shared history of dehumanization and institutionalization that both populations suffered, and acknowledge that separate is not equal and that it is often an ineffective and weak alternative.” As Dr. King fought the tide of racial injustice and oppression, “he also railed against the anti-democratic nature of poverty and lack of opportunity for minorities.” Dr. King recognized that employment was key to gaining equality, independence, and self-sufficiency, stating that, “‘If a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness’”. Dr. King affirmed that marginalized populations must band together to challenge the status quo by forming a united front to work on civil rights. As we move forward in this new year, we should remember – and reaffirm – Dr. King and his efforts to advance civil rights for everyone. For more details, read the article from the Starkloff Disability Institute: Reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King and Civil Rights Overlooked Goals.

Check Out These Virtual Technology Sessions

A number of virtual training programs are coming up from The Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library of the New York Public Library:

Tomorrow: January 15, 1 – 2:30 pm Eastern Time (ET): iPhone Chat for Voiceover Beginners:  For those who are new to or getting used to Voiceover on the iPhone, this session will review how screen readers work, gestures you need to know, and strategies for obtaining assistance. There will be time for questions and networking. Sign up for iPhone Chat for Voiceover Beginners.

January 20, 3 – 4:30 pm ET: Intro to BARD and Bookshare: The session will provide an overview of these two resources, including how to sign up and how to download their offerings.  BARD [the Braille and Audio Reading Download from the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled (NLS)], a free service, is an online library where you can download books and magazines in audio or Braille. Bookshare offers access, through membership, to their online library, with more than one million titles that can be read with text-to-speech audio, magnification, and Braille. Membership is free to students in the U.S. and to New York Public Library patrons. Find out more and sign up for Intro to BARD and Bookshare.

22, 3 - 4:30 pm ET: Newly Blind and Short on Time: Tech Chat: Are you incorporating the use of a screen reader into “high-level skills you already have?” For those wishing to develop “nonvisual skills quickly” and network and exchange tips with other patrons, sign up for this discussion: Newly Blind and Short on Time: Tech Chat.

Join in a Workshop on January 17: The Parent Balancing Challenge

Raising a child who has a visual impairment “can feel isolating and overwhelming at times” and can pose challenges to relationships within the family and in the community while providing the best care possible for the child. This workshop will provide a safe space to consider self-care for parents and tools to build a strong family foundation. Participants will have the opportunity to connect with other parents and talk about how to be a strong, healthy role model for your child, family, and community. Presenter Sheila Adamo, LSCW, CADC, a licensed clinical social worker and therapist, co-owns Building Parent Connections, which offers education, guidance, and support to parents of children with special needs. She also manages the New Parent Program, Parent Connections, and Grandparents Connections for the National Organization of Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH).  The workshop, a Lighthouse Guild Tele-Support Presentation, will take place from 8:30 to 9:30 pm ET. For more information or to register, go to The Parent Balancing Challenge.

Rebranding Accessibility Options as Customization: Features That Help Everyone

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

As a person with a congenital visual impairment, I have experienced technology and accessibility as part of my life since before I can remember. That is what led me to this opportunity, writing for the Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation bulletin, and it allows me to participate in a world and in activities that are made for the sighted, and so often exclude people who are visually impaired. Many of us in the blind and visually impaired community credit our devices and accessibility options with our ability to live freer, more independent lives. However, the accessibility options that we rely on, such as Assistant, Dark Mode, or Live Caption, can be useful to all users, and disability-friendly technology improves the experience for everyone. This is why we must begin to think of accessibility as customization of technology. Much like curb-cuts, made to create ramps for wheelchair access to sidewalks, have benefitted many other people (such as those pushing strollers or shopping carts, bicyclists, and skateboarders) and have become standard, we too can think this way about accessibility options. Rebranding “accessibility options” as “customization” means not only increasing the availability of disability-friendly options to improve the lives of people with disabilities, it would also benefit everyone. For more information, check out the article by Nicola Yap, in Think With Google: Why we should rethink accessibility as customization.

Technology That Makes Public Transit Easier

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

Taking public transportation can be a source of anxiety for some people who are blind or visually impaired. It can be difficult to locate a bus stop or a train station to get to a destination. New technology offerings make navigating public transit systems easier. First, here are some free or low-cost, useful transportation apps:

The Mapp4All app uses GPS technology to allow users to move around their environment independently, describing transit options, local businesses, and even potential dangers in the area. It is free to download and use.

The Seeing Eye GPS, on the iOS App Store, app offers fully accessible turn-by-turn navigation. Free to download; a monthly subscription costs $5.99.

The Lazzus app gives users real-time updates regarding their surroundings and can assist in locating local businesses or transit stops, increasing independence and mobility. It is free to download, with a 7-day free trial to use; a monthly license costs $4.99, with options to purchase annually or for a lifetime.

The Moovit app, free to download and use, connects travelers to local mass transit locations and schedules and gives live updates and alerts regarding location and destination. Download this free app on the iOS App Store or on the Google Play Store for Android.

A fairly new technology on the market that combines cane usage with GPS and public transportation apps, the WeWalk Smart Cane, invented by WeWalk and Moovit, seeks to improve mobility when riding public transit. Using Moovit's transit app, the Smart Cane delivers detailed route guidance so that users can find their transit stops with relative ease. The Smart Cane has Bluetooth connectivity, a touchpad, and can be operated through voice commands. Its ultrasonic sensors and a vibrating handle can warn users about objects in their path. It can also send audio or text alerts about re-routes and service disruptions. The Cane can be purchased for $599 on the WeWalk Smart Cane website. Download the WeWalk app here on the iOS App Store for Apple products or here on the Google Play Store for Android. Before purchasing this or other products, check with a mobility professional to ensure that it’s the right product for you.

At-Home Coronavirus Tests: Inaccessible to People Who Are Blind or Visually Impaired

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

For millions of Americans, testing for Coronavirus can be as easy as ordering an at-home rapid test online or buying one in a store. However, for those of us with vision loss, obtaining testing isn’t easy, and we find ourselves not being able to test as frequently as we’d prefer. Venturing out to seek testing can be full of unseen hazards, like not being able to tell if people around you are masking or socially distancing properly. As a result, many people with vision loss are self-isolating to avoid exposure risks for themself and others, as there currently are no fully accessible at-home COVID-19 tests. The tests must be completed with precision and completing them properly requires the user to read printed directions. Not every person with vision loss has access to a sighted person who is safe and willing to help them with testing. For now, we must rely on apps like BeMyEyes and Aira, which connect users with a sighted person who can guide them through the process. However, these methods are not private and are inaccessible to those without smartphones. To address the lack of accessible testing, the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) sent a letter to the Biden Administration thanking them for their dedication to obtaining tests and urging that they ensure that at-home tests are fully accessible for all Americans, including those with low or no vision, to improve and protect their health. For now, we can sacrifice some privacy and independence to conduct at-home tests. Hopefully, manufacturers will take this feedback and lack of attention to accessibility into account to make the changes necessary, such as offering Braille or large print instructions, to make the test fully accessible. For an in-depth analysis of this issue, read The New York Times article: At-Home Coronoavirus Tests Are Inaccessible to Blind People. Read the NFB letter here.

Call for Nominations for Two Vision Awards

Prevent Blindness has announced a call for nominations for the “2022 Jenny Pomeroy Award for Excellence and Public Health” and the third annual “Rising Visionary Award.” These awards will be presented at the 11th Annual Prevent Blindness Focus on Eye Health National Summit to be held virtually July 13-14, 2022. The Jenny Pomeroy Award honors “an individual, group, or organization that has made significant contributions to the advancement of public health related to vision and eye health…” Prevent Blindness’ Rising Visionary Award recognizes an optometry, primary health care, nursing, or health professional student or resident in the U.S. who has the “best overall application and essay” addressing the 2022 National Summit theme: Eye-conic Approaches to Eye Health. The deadline for submissions for both awards is February 4, 2022 at noon ET. For more information on the awards, including links to the nomination forms, read the Call for Nominations for 2022 Prevent Blindness Jenny Pomeroy Award for Excellence in Vision and Public Health and Rising Visionary Award.

Glaucoma Awareness Month “Food for Thought (and Consumption)”

The relationship between diet and health has been widely heralded in recent years for keeping many conditions in check, from diabetes and macular degeneration to hypertension and cardiovascular disease. While a healthy diet “isn’t a magic bullet and can’t prevent glaucoma, there are benefits to eating certain foods and avoiding others.” The Glaucoma Foundation offers some food choices for individuals who are living with glaucoma to consider. Here are a few:

Fruits and Vegetables: These foods contain vitamins A and C and antioxidants that can protect against the “oxidative stress” connected with damage to the optic nerve of the eye in glaucoma.

Nuts: Nuts and seeds contain vitamin E, which helps to keep cells healthy and protects against damage to the eye’s retinal tissue.

Fish: Fish like salmon, tuna, sardines, and halibut are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and may help to prevent eye disease among older adults, according to research studies. Foods with omega-3s have also been shown to decrease glaucoma-related eye pressure.

Chocolate: Chocolate lovers may revel in the results of a study published in JAMA Ophthalmology, finding that two hours after eating dark chocolate, adults could see better, “possibly due to enhanced blood flow” from the antioxidants found in the treat.

Read more about these and other tips, including what foods to avoid or limit, in Glaucoma and Nutrition: Why What You Eat Matters.

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