A Hero’s Legacy Lives On
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
Today, January 6th, marks the anniversary of the death of Louis Braille in 1852. His birthday, January 4th, is rightly celebrated the world over by people with vision loss and advocacy organizations. The fact that these dates are so close together makes the designation of January as Braille literacy month even more significant. For people wishing to honor Braille and his impact by delving deeper into his life and work, one way, for those who have the means, is to visit the Louis Braille Museum in Coupvray, France. An organization called Friends of Louis Braille bought the inventor’s birthplace in 1952. That 100th anniversary of Louis Braille’s death is the same year that his body was exhumed and paraded to the Paris Panthéon, with many notable people in attendance, including Helen Keller. The house opened to the public as a museum the following year and was inaugurated officially in 1954. Aside from the house itself, the museum also includes an exhibit known as the “Garden of the Five Senses.” Financed by the Givaudan Foundation and the town of Coupvray, and designed by landscape architect Thierry Rousset, the garden “invites visitors to explore all the senses, smell, taste, touch, sight, and hearing, with more than 500 different plant varieties that can be smelled, eaten, touched, heard, and looked at(.)” There is a virtual tour of the garden and house on the museum’s website. You can find out much more information online about the Louis Braille Museum. And in the meantime, don’t forget to check out this electronic edition of the first publication of the Braille code, available both in the original French and an English translation, prepared by staff at the Jacobus tenBroek Library at the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). A rare physical copy of this book, one of six in the world, is displayed at the museum of the American Printing House for the Blind (APH) in Louisville, Kentucky, according to this 2015 APH press release about the book.
“Disability Rights Are Civil Rights:” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Impact on Disability Justice
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
If the idea that the third Monday in January, commemorating the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is “a day on, not a day off” reminds us of one thing, it is that there remains a mountain of work to be done to realize Dr. King’s vision of a society where people from all races and backgrounds are treated with equity and without prejudice. In doing so, it is vital that we understand his teachings, and those of others in the Civil Rights Movement, as they relate to the struggle for disability rights as well as the rights of all minorities. Last year, National Council on Disability (NCD) chairman Andrés Gallegos issued a statement on how Dr. King’s legacy intersects with disability advocacy. Gallegos states that the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, spurred by nonviolent protest, would not have happened without Dr. King laying the groundwork decades before. That sentiment was echoed by a post on the AMS Vans blog. Gallegos added, "It was Dr. King who…said, ‘Of all forms of discrimination and inequalities, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhumane.’ Then he was challenging the use of federal funds to support a segregated healthcare system. As NCD works toward the establishment of a health equity framework for all people with disabilities, we heed the words of Dr. King in calling for prioritization of people with disabilities in the COVID-19 response and health equity.” Some disability groups have marched in Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day parades, such as this one in Atlanta in 2020. The post linked above mentions the slogans these groups have used to educate participants and onlookers about the issue, including “disability rights are civil rights,” “nothing about us without us,” “our home, not nursing homes,” and “we have spoken, we’re not broken.” In addition, the Center for Disability Empowerment (CDE) and The Mighty provide lists of inspirational quotes from Dr. King applying to disability justice. Here is the CDE’s list and here is The Mighty’s list. Lastly, this post from activist and attorney Talila Lewis emphasizes the importance of disability solidarity and the perspectives of those who are disabled and belong to other minority groups. As this holiday is designated a National Day of Service, you can use your “day on” as a reminder to champion equity and justice for all throughout the year.
“Touch of Genius Prize for Innovation” Application Available: Deadline January 13, 2023
The Touch of Genius Prize for Innovation from National Braille Press (NBP), an annual award of $10,000, recognizes a project, or group of projects, that demonstrate “the most innovative idea in the field of braille and tactile literacy.” Applicants submit projects related to professional software and apps, educational software and apps, gaming software or apps, and braille or tactile-related hardware or learning items. This is the only award that fosters and rewards “innovation in the area of braille and tactile literacy for the blind and deaf blind communities.” Award winners have included innovators worldwide in education, technology, engineering, tactile graphics, and literacy. Applicants need to demonstrate in their narrative what their innovation/project is, how it shows innovation, measurements of success, challenges and limitations experienced, and other criteria outlined in the application materials. Applications may be submitted electronically or via mail by the January 13, 2023 deadline. For more information about the award, how to apply, who the judges are, and past winners, download the Touch of Genius Prize application here.
January is Glaucoma Awareness Month
Early detection and treatment can help to prevent vision loss from glaucoma, a leading cause of blindness in the United States, particularly among older adults and African Americans, according to the National Eye Institute (NEI) of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). In its early stages, glaucoma generally does not cause noticeable symptoms and half of those with glaucoma do not know they have it. Once vision is lost, it cannot be restored. To focus greater attention on the “sneak thief of sight,” efforts to increase awareness escalate during January, known as Glaucoma Awareness Month. The only way glaucoma can be detected is through a comprehensive dilated eye exam. Through its National Eye Health Education Program (NEHEP), NEI provides an array of resources that can be shared, including videos and webinars, articles and fact sheets, infographics, and info cards that can be shared online. NEI also has the See What I See: Virtual Reality Eye Disease Experience app, which makes it possible to see firsthand how glaucoma and other eye conditions can impact vision. A guide to help people "Talk With Your Doctor About Glaucoma" is also available, with information about the condition, suggested questions, and a symptom tracker. A multitude of additional resources are available as well, from social media posts to presentation tips to a toolkit for use in educating groups. The Glaucoma Research Foundation also encourages raising awareness, providing recommendations about speaking with family and friends about glaucoma. A free educational "Understanding and Living with Glaucoma" booklet, “a comprehensive guide for patients who have been recently diagnosed with glaucoma, for their families, and their friends,” as well as other educational resources and information are available as well. To learn more and access additional resources, visit the NEI listing entitled January is Glaucoma Awareness Month and the Glaucoma Research Foundation webpage on Glaucoma Awareness Month.
Research Update: Coffee Consumption Linked to Higher Risk of Primary Open Angle Glaucoma
Coffee, the “most popular and widely consumed beverage in the world,” is often thought of in relation to wakefulness. Some studies have also shown its role in lowering the incidence of certain health conditions, like diabetes. Now, research indicates that it can play a role in the development of primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG). In an article in Ophthalmology, a publication of the American Academy of Ophthalmology, results from a research study provide evidence that higher coffee consumption is also connected with a higher risk of POAG. Previous studies have suggested that coffee influences intraocular pressure (IOC), a risk factor for glaucoma. However, few evaluated the relationship between consuming the beverage and glaucoma and “the causality remains unclear.” This study used Mendelian randomization (MR), making it more effective than earlier undertakings, due to its use of genetic variables to examine the “causal relationship between risk factors and outcomes.” The report concludes that these findings can help in gaining insights into possible strategies to prevent and manage POAG. Read more here about how "Habitual Coffee Consumption Increases (the) Risk of Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma."
Understanding the Benefits of Apprenticeships: A Webinar on January 11, 2023
The Employment First Community of Practice invites participation in its webinar on January 11, 2023 from 3 to 4 pm ET covering "Apprenticeships: Understanding the Benefits and Funding Opportunities." This session offers the opportunity for an in-depth orientation to apprenticeships, including benefits, how to implement them successfully, and potential funding sources. Presenters will share insights and examples of successful community-based apprenticeship models, and findings from “on-the-ground training” and technical assistance given to providers seeking to offer apprenticeships as part of their Competitive Integrated Employment offerings. Register here for the Apprenticeships Webinar.
Virtual “Dark Room Ballet” Introductory Classes Starting January 21, 2023
Are you, or someone you know, interested in ballet but have no prior experience? For eight Saturdays, beginning January 23, 2023, from 4 – 5:30 pm, Dark Room Ballet offers its Introductory Level Class virtually via the Zoom platform and free of charge. Dark Room Ballet, hosted by Movement Research, is geared specifically to the educational needs of people who are blind or visually impaired. The classes introduce students to basic ballet vocabulary in preparation for participation in their “Open Level Dark Room Ballet Class.” It covers “anatomical concepts” like torso stability, sightless balancing, and “the use of a taped floor for orientation.” The instructor is Krishna Washburn, a blind ballet dancer and teacher. To check out the class, which is also available via phone call in, or to register, go to Dark Room Ballet Introductory Classes for Blind and Visually Impaired Adults -- New Cycle Begins Saturday, January 21st.
New Guidelines Issued for Accessible COVID-19 Test Kits
by Daniel Parker, RDPFS Intern
In December 2022, the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx®) Tech program of the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) issued a document called “Best Practices for the Design of Accessible COVID-19 Home Tests.” RADx® Tech was created by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to shorten the timeline for developing diagnostics such as test kits from several years to months. It is part of an NIH initiative to expedite all steps of the process for utilizing COVID-19 tests, from development to commercialization and implementation. The document contains recommendations for manufacturers on how to make at-home tests accessible to those with disabilities, including people with vision loss. Areas covered include “accessible packaging and instructions of test kits, including general readability and layout; graphics and images; language; organization and identification of contents; and digital design, such as modality, assistive technology compatibility, and user interface features.” It forms part of a larger RADx® Tech program to make tests more accessible and easier to use, including for older adults, people with limited dexterity, and people with other disabilities. Experts held listening sessions with users, manufacturers, and disability advocacy groups in order to determine which best practices to recommend. An expanded version of the guidelines is set to be released during the first half of this year. You can read more information about this in NIBIB’s press release on best practices for the design of at-home COVID-19 test kits.
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