Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

RDPFS Resources for Partners July 1, 2021

With the Independence Day holiday upon us, we bring this week’s bulletin a day earlier than usual. Please read on for timely news and resources…. And have a safe and happy Fourth of July!

RDPFS Names New Executive Director: Jason Eckert

The Board of Directors of Reader's Digest Partners for Sight Foundation is pleased to announce the appointment of Jason Eckert as Executive Director effective June 28, 2021.  Jason has 25 years of professional experience in the Blind and Vision Impaired community, where he is known for his skills in working closely with providers and other community partners to remove impediments to success and foster the development of innovative, goal-oriented programs. He began his career as a Rehabilitation Counselor providing career services at Lighthouse International (now Lighthouse Guild) in New York. In 2000 he joined the New York State Commission for the Blind, where he rose to the position of Downstate Regional Coordinator, a position he held for seven years. Jason holds an M.A. in Counseling and a B.A. in Psychology from the George Washington University. Please join us in welcoming him.

Hear the Declaration of Independence Read in Person or Online

According to the The Old Farmer's Almanac, the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence took place on July 8, 1776 at the Pennsylvania State House (now Independence Hall) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Later that same day, other readings occurred in Trenton, New Jersey, and Easton, Pennsylvania. Following a year of canceled celebrations, villages, towns and cities around the United States are reviving the tradition, many in person, so if you wish to venture out, search your local government or historical society pages to attend an in-person reading. There’s a plethora of other July 4 in person activities, too. Eventbrite has an extensive listing of free online possibilities.

National Archives Virtual Reading and More

Spend July 4 online with the National Archives from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Each hour brings a new discussion with re-enactors Thomas Jefferson, Martha Washington (who’ll also demonstrate the making of a patriotic ice cream sundae), Black Continental Army soldier Ned Hector, the enslaved spy John Armistead Lafayette, and Betsy Ross. The day culminates with the traditional reading of the Declaration of Independence at 4 p.m. Register for one hour or for all. Full information here.

Sing a Sea Song

The Fourth of July is also the first Sunday of the month, so it’s the perfect day for joining in on NYC’s South Street Seaport monthly virtual sea chantey sing along. The program continues through December, but this week is the perfect time to register for this event led by the New York Packet. Full info here.

Join in the Youth for Human Rights Freedom Concert

In honor of the 20th anniversary of Youth for Human Rights International, a virtual concert will stream at 12 pm EDT on July 4, with a wide range of artists and speakers spreading their message of #humanrights! The concert is free and will be streamed live on the United for Human Rights Florida Facebook page. Scroll down to the announcement: To get updates here’s: the Facebook event page.

Celebrate Safely: Fireworks Safety Awareness Week: June 28 – July 4, 2021

Prevent Blindness has declared this week “Fireworks Safety Awareness Week” to call attention to the dangers posed by fireworks. “Thousands of Americans spend the 4th of July in the emergency room due to injuries from fireworks. Spend yours with your family and friends instead,” they urge. Fireworks commonly cause burns to hands, fingers, arms and legs. The most common eye injuries are from “lacerations and contusions, including foreign objects in the eye. Now that we are emerging from COVID-19, staying safe this Fourth of July is more significant than ever. Read more about it here.

Scholarships for Students in STEM Subjects: Apply by July 5

The Peter Papano-APH STEM Scholarships, new from the American Printing House for the Blind (APH), is being offered to students who are blind or visually impaired and plan to major in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) subject. Four scholarships of $5,000 each will be awarded. Students who live and plan to go to college in California may be eligible. For more information or to apply.

Making Science Accessible for Kids: Edible Candy Models

Students can have their candy and sense a molecule at the same time thanks to a team that has developed an edible, candy-like three-dimensional models to help students detect molecules through the mouth. Dr. Bryan Shaw, a biochemist and biophysicist at Baylor University, was inspired to lead the research study resulting in these models based on the experiences of his son, Noah, who lost one eye to cancer and has partial vision in the other. According to the study, published in the journal Science Advances, “Students recognized structures by mouth at 85.59% accuracy, similar to recognition by eyesight using computer animation.” Students with vision impairment are generally discouraged from pursuing subjects like chemistry – and other STEM (science, technology, engineering, technology) subjects -- that utilize 3D images for training that are not accessible to those with vision impairment. The study used gummy bear-like models to sense protein molecules through the tongue and lips. Read more about it in News Hook: here.

DeafBlind Awareness Week 2021: June 27 – July 3

June 27, Helen Keller’s birthday, kicked off DeafBlind Awareness Week. The theme for 2021 is “DeafBlind Emplyees Can Help Businesses Grow with Unique Insights and Perspectives. TrailBlazer, Big Thinker, GoGetter, DeafBlind…”Talented employees who are DeafBlind are doing more than their part” to contribute to the growth of companies. Helen Keller National Center for DeafBlind Youths and Adults (HKNC) reports that this national advocacy campaign has occurred annually since 1984, when President Ronald Reagan issued a proclamation recognizing its importance. You can get more information, materials and suggestions for activities here. More ideas for recognition activities are offered from the United Kingdom, from deafblindUK.

Volunteer at National Parks and Monuments (including virtually)

Although you may not be interested in a kennel assistant opportunity in Denali National Park this winter, plenty of other opportunities are available for those interested in volunteering with the National Parks Service. Many positions involve grounds maintenance and visitor hosting, but there are more to choose from. Two that stood out are Museum Guide at the Lowell National Historical Park in Massachusetts and a Discography Assistant at Ellis Island in New York. Discography assistants work virtually to help transcribe and translate early commercial sound recordings made by immigrants for immigrants. Four hundred sixty-four opportunities are posted right now at . There are lots of ways to filter, but we found the easiest is simply to search on the left side of the web page on a state name and get a list of statewide postings. If you’re navigating with a screen reader and have difficulties accessing this option, check out other location categories or scroll through the full list of opportunities. Clicking on a position brings up all the details, including level of difficulty and age groups sought.

Story Seeds Goes the Extra Mile to Make Virtual Camps Accessible

Our June 18 issue featured the Story Seeds learn-to-podcast camps for kids on Zoom. The camps appeared to be fully accessible, but we weren’t sure, so we contacted them. Sandhya Nankani, founder and executive producer at Literary Safari, the company that produces Story Seeds, responded that in addition to verbal interaction with instructors and audio components of all slides, no print materials will be used during the sessions. Sandhya asked her instructors and received this response about the August weeklong camp for teens. “I will have some visual slides with text and images, but I can …make sure they are readable by a screen-reader and share them at least the day before. I will also be cognizant of describing what is on each slide so kids with low or no vision can be in the moment and not need to rely on a screen reader all of the time…The course platform, Padlet, is basically compatible with screen readers according to their site, but I am going to talk to some folks about that...” Register by July 6 for the 4 session Mini Camp ($150); and by July 30 for mid-August weeklong intensive camp ($520). Amazing to find such a company so responsive to the needs of blind and visually impaired future podcasters. Is there a chance for a partnership here?

Beyond Sight Art Conversations at Wave Hill

Join the online art conversation Beyond Sight: The Shadow of the Sun zoomed from Wave Hill Garden, located in the Bronx, New York, on July 13 from 12:30-2 p.m. The free virtual presentation, part of Wave Hill’s “Beyond Sight” series for adults who are blind or visually impaired, combines verbal descriptions and interpretation of select works by artists Ross Bleckner and Zachari Logan currently on view. Get more info and register here.

If You Like Gaming: Insights from Partners for Sight Intern Ahmat Djouma

Ahmat shared some of the games he learned about when he attendedng the gaming chat for iPad and iPhone users held last week by The New York Public Library Andrew Heiskell Library. The first app game covered, Moxie classic, gives you “a bunch of lettered tiles that you can use to create words.” The longer the words that you create, the more points you get.  If you like word games this might be one for you. Another game of note is BLIND DRIVE. As the name suggests, you are “driving blind” using your phone as a remote control to operate a “car” and navigate obstacles.  You are blind folded, driving by using your ears and your phone as a remote control. The game costs $3.99. Ahmat reports that “I bought this game, but it was too fast-paced for me. Or I just might not be a great audio game player!” He found that the cars moved very quickly and “you have to get out of the way as quickly as you can so they can pass you.” If you are familiar with Blindfold Racer, this is similar, but you are not using your phone as a steering wheel in Blind Drive but rather your phone as a remote control. Finally, one great resource for accessible iOS apps is AppleVis.  This website is everything Apple. You will find a directory of accessible apps, instruction on how to get started on your Apple device, and you will be able to track any technical bugs with new software releases.  Go to this directory and you will be able to categorize apps into topics like games and lifestyle. Enjoy browsing through these vast resources.