Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

RDPFS Resources for Partners January 28, 2022

Listening, Communicating, and Building Partnerships

From the Desk of Jason Eckert, Executive Director of Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation

At the end of each year, during the holiday season, we all feel grateful for the good we see in the world and enjoy thanking family, friends, and colleagues who helped make the world a better place for those experiencing vision loss. Then the new year arrives, and I start to think about all the ways we can make things even better. This year I resolve to listen actively to new ideas. When we actively listen, we resist the temptation to dismiss or ignore what the other person is saying. Active listening improves communication and communicating more effectively builds partnerships. Let us all reaffirm our commitment to listen actively to ideas we did not think of, or those we don’t like at first. Let us refrain from dismissing them and instead use these ideas to extend our interactions and strengthen partnerships with all the stakeholders in the blind and vision impaired community.

At Reader’s Digest Partners for Sight Foundation, we are committed to improving the blind and vision Impaired community. Our goal is to empower people living with blindness and vision impairment, from diverse backgrounds, in achieving as much independence as possible while being included in, and treated equally by, all communities within which they wish to participate. I boldly request that you share all ideas that support this goal.

You can begin by sharing any thoughts you have about RDPFS with me: [email protected].  Perhaps suggest a new feature or story for this bulletin.  Or propose doing something different with Readers Digest Select Editions Large Type.  Maybe RDPFS could fund an “out of the box,” innovative project with a new not-for-profit agency. We at RDPFS are open to hearing these ideas.

In 2022 let us collaborate and generate creative approaches to strengthen the blind and vision impaired community and enhance the lives of every person living with vision loss. Let us share our thoughts across our professional identities, not-for-profit agencies, government organizations, educational institutions, private businesses, and foundations; knowing that all of us are committed to increasing communication and building partnerships around new ideas, to contribute, together, to our ongoing effort to make the world a better place for all.

Gearing Up for Low Vision Awareness Month

Each year February is recognized as Low Vision Awareness Month to increase awareness and access to resources for the millions of Americans affected by low vision, or vision that cannot be corrected fully with the use of eyeglasses, contact lenses, medicine, and surgery. “Low Vision Awareness Month is a time to spread the word about vision rehabilitation and how people with low vision can live full, active lives,” according to National Eye Institute (NEI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). To help individuals and organizations “spread the word,” NEI provides health education materials, informational cards, videos, articles and fact sheets, as well as tools and guidance to conduct community educational sessions on the topic. Find out more about the free resources available from NEI during Low Vision Awareness Month.

Celebrating Black History Month at The Museum of African American History and Culture

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

February is Black History Month, which is a time for people across the U.S. to learn about and reflect on the histories and achievements of African Americans. And what better way to learn about and celebrate Black history than visiting The National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in Washington DC. The museum opened in September 2016 and remains the only national museum dedicated to the documentation of the lives, histories, and cultures of the peoples of the African Diaspora. Museum visitors who have vision loss may be disappointed to discover that the museum itself does not have recorded, audio-described exhibits or tactile tours. However, that doesn’t mean that the museum is inaccessible. They provide braille or raised image maps that you can ask for at the customer service desk. Visitors who are blind or have low vision may also request a docent or visitor services staff member to be their sighted guide, offering verbal descriptions of the exhibits. The one major caveat to the sighted guides is that the museum only guarantees access to them for up to 45 minutes and visitors can only utilize them in one gallery or floor of their choosing. As a result, the museum recommends that visitors with low or no vision download the Aira Access mobile information and description service, funded by the Smithsonian Museum, which will connect the visitor to an agent who can help describe the museum's exhibits. If you’re unable to travel to Washington DC to attend the NMAAHC and you still want to learn about Black History, you may browse the NMAAHC’s Searchable Museum collection online. For more information about the museum, check out The National Museum of African American History and Culture website. For more information about the Aira Access app, check out the Aira Access website or download this Aira guide. For more facts about the timeline and history of Black History Month, read the History.Com article: Black History Facts.

“Game-Changing” Technology Seeks to Make Traveling Independently Much Easier

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

A new technology being developed in metro Atlanta will allow people with vision loss to navigate public transportation more precisely, including rideshares. Good friends and business partners, Chris Webb and David Furukawa are developing the app to help people with vision loss travel independently and with more ease. Webb, an electrical engineer, wanted to help Furukawa, who lost his sight as an adult, to access his rideshare vehicles more easily using more precise geolocation. Their company, Foresight Augmented Reality, aims to do this by guiding users to their desired location or ride to within four inches using a new technology called ultrawide band technology. The GPS technology that is currently available can only guide users within 50 to 100 feet of their destination. Foresight Augmented Reality has been working with Bluetooth technology to guide people using the trolley at Georgia Tech and in city buildings in Decatur, Georgia. And recognizing that autonomous cars are likely at least half a decade away, this technology will ensure users are getting into the correct vehicles, thereby increasing their safety and confidence in traveling independently. The company is currently participating in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Inclusive Design Challenge and is one of ten semifinalists hoping to win the prize of one million dollars with their technology. The winner of the challenge will be announced this summer. Read more about this technology in the article by WSB-TV2 Atlanta: ‘Game-changing’ tech to assist blind, visually impaired being developed in metro Atlanta. And read more about Foresight Augmented Reality and their other projects on their website, here.

Positive Gains in Digital Accessibility Thanks to Legal Settlement

by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern

The settlement of a recent lawsuit, and the route pursued by the “opposing parties to get there, could do more for digital accessibility than many of the cases that came before it, some advocates say.” So stated The Wall Street Journal, reporting on the settlement reached by Automatic Data Processing Inc. (ADP), a human resources software company specializing in payroll and tax services, and the LightHouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, based in San Francisco. In 2020, the LightHouse sued ADP for the company’s failure to make its software and applications accessible for people who are blind or have low vision. The two parties reached a settlement using “structured negotiations,” cooperating with each other without further court litigation. LightHouse Chief Executive Bryan Bashin, stated, “’We have constructively engaged ADP, and this is going to result in a work environment that blind people anywhere who use ADP services can benefit from the same access as their sighted peers.’” Acknowledging the importance of accessibility, ADP is breaking from the tradition of making accessibility settlements confidential and has opted to make its accessibility framework public so that other companies may use it. ADP has committed to working with a web accessibility expert to make their products more user-friendly for people who have low or no vision. They also plan to train all employees to provide customer service to people who use screen reading software and agreed to stop using screen overlays and automated accessibility services which are rife with problems for users with vision loss. Gina Bhawalkar, a principal analyst from Forrester Research Inc., says that, "This should serve as a reminder to all businesses to make accessibility a priority when purchasing technology so all their employees, including those with disabilities, can do their jobs effectively." Read more in The Wall Street Journal article: ADP Settlement Offers Framework for Future Digital-Accessibility Agreements.

News from Grantees

Online Conversation on February 1, 2022 with Author of Groundbreaking Book on Her Personal “Journey of Blindness”

Author Dr. M. Leona Godin will discuss her “groundbreaking book,” There Plant Eyes: A Personal and Cultural History of Blindness, during “Conversations with the Fil’” on February 1, 2022 from 7 to 8:30 pm Eastern Time. Dr. Godin, a professional writer, performer, educator, and alumna of the FMDG (Filomen D’Agostino Greenberg)  Music School, will speak with Dr. Leslie Jones, The Fil’s Executive Director, about the book, her journey in writing it, and her personal experience of blindness that led to its creation. The author “inspires others to ponder and question how the world sees people with vision loss as well as themselves.” For more information, including how to RSVP, visit the web listing from the FMDG Music School, a grantee of RDPFS: Conversations with the Fil': Dr. M. Leona Godin.

New Tactile Braille Series Launched

Following more than a year of research and development, Hadley has launched their new Braille for Everyday Use series. The series of interactive workshops “teach your fingers to read.” The workshops provide instruction in everyday, practical uses for braille, “From labeling items in your home to identifying buttons on an elevator.” The Braille for Everyday Use: Letters Series includes eight workshops, each of which covers a few letters of the alphabet. Every session is made up of two parts: a workbook sent to your home and audio instruction offered via phone or online. Hadley recommends that users who are new to braille take the workshops in the order in which they are presented, beginning with letters, then numbers and punctuation. Funded in part by RDPFS, the Braille for Everyday Use series is available free of charge. To find out more, including how to order the workbooks, check out Braille for Everyday Use: Letters Series, For a brief YouTube on the launch, go to Launch Day | Behind the Scenes of Hadley's New Braille Series.

RDPFS Board News

Reader's Digest Partners for Sight Foundation has appointed Naima West to its Board of Directors. As a new Board member, Naima brings her extensive experience in performing, planning, and managing complex audit assignments for not-for-profit organizations to the Partners for Sight Board. After a twelve-year career in retail, Naima changed her trajectory to pursue a career in public accounting.  She is currently an audit manager at Blazek and Vetterling, a Houston-based CPA firm specializing in audit and tax services for not-for-profit organizations.  Her work at Blazek and Vetterling allows Naima to fulfill her passion for serving the nonprofit community while also engaging in a career that she loves.  In addition to her role as audit manager, Naima is a founding member of the firm’s Community Engagement Committee, which identifies and organizes fundraising and volunteer opportunities that allow the firm to serve charitable organizations in Houston and the surrounding areas. Naima holds a Bachelor of Business Administration, Accounting degree from the University of Houston-Downtown. Welcome Naima!

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