Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

RDPFS Resources for Partners March 17, 2022

Eye on the Future Meeting March 23, 2023 Presents Resources for Parents of Youth Who Are Visually Impaired

This month’s online meeting of the New York Vision Loss Coalition features NFB-NEWSLINE® and how it can be a useful tool for families. Guest speaker Maura Kutnyak, the NFB-NEWSLINE® outreach coordinator in New York, is a mother of blind children, a law student, avid reader, and “a strong advocate for equity in access to information.” Parents in New York and beyond are welcome to join in the meeting. For more information about the series and other initiatives, visit the VISIONS webpage on the New York City Youth and Vision Loss Coalition. Join in the program that evening by visiting the New York City Youth and Vision Loss Coalition Meeting Zoom link here. The meeting ID is 875 5759 6924; and the passcode is 212625. To participate via phone, call: (929) 205-6099.

Upcoming Webinars of Note

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), through their Center of Excellence in Nonvisual Access, is offering the following virtual events via Zoom:

On March 22, 2023, from 1 to 5 pm ET, the Google Workspace Seminar will explore how to use Google’s “web-based productivity suite,” which includes tools to ensure that documents, spreadsheets, and presentations are accessible to those with disabilities. Participants will learn how Google Workspace’s applications work with a screen reader and review some best practices for developing accessible content.  Register here for the March 22 Google Workspace Seminar.

On March 28, 2023, from 2 to 3 pm ET, the Remote Access Boutique will address remote desktop access, which has “always been challenging for blind people,” due to it being either not accessible at all or limited in their use. Now a new alternative, Pneuma Solutions, has another accessible offering that can establish a connection easily “with a simple keyword” and does not require a screen reader, but works with JAWS, NVDA, or Narrator. Register here for the March 28 Remote Access Boutique.

Also on March 28, 2023, from 3 to 4 pm CDT (4 to 5 pm ET), the University of South Dakota, Center for Disabilities: SD Deaf-Blind Program will be hosting the Sensory and Complex Needs FREE Webinar: Daily Living Skills for Vision Loss. Those participating will learn about daily living skills, techniques, and strategies that can be helpful to a child or adult with vision loss. Adaptations for several tasks will be covered, including morning routines, cooking, cleaning, and more. Learn more at the link above.

Jobs Report for People with Disabilities Shows Record Rates of Engagement

by Connor Courtien, RDPFS Intern

According to the most recent data in the nTIDE (National Trends in Disability Employment) Jobs Report, issued jointly by the Kessler Foundation and the University of New Hampshire’s Institute on Disability, a record high for labor force participation rate by people with disabilities was achieved in February of this year. Data on this rate have been published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics since 2008 and serve as the basis for the reported information. This unprecedented rate, at 40.2 percent, includes individuals who are either working or actively looking for work, and year-to-year, marks a 3.6 percent increase from 36.6 percent in February 2022. In addition to this all-time high in participation, the employment-to-population ratio saw a 3.8 percent increase, from 33.1 percent to 36.9 percent, among people with disabilities in the same timeframe. As a point of comparison, the participation rate for those without disabilities increased by 0.4 percentage points, from 76.9 percent to 77.3 percent, and the employment-to-population ratio increased by 0.6 percentage points, from 73.8 percent to 74.4 percent, year-to-year. These statistics represent a narrowing of the gap between labor force engagement between those with and without disabilities. According to John O’Neill, PhD, director of the Center for Employment and Disability Research at the Kessler Foundation, “This is consistent with the gains we have seen as people with disabilities made a strong recovery from the pandemic.” For a more complete breakdown of these latest statistics, follow the link above to the full report.

A Deeper Dive: Monthly Webinar on March 24, 2023

Each month the nTIDE team hosts two webinars, a “Lunch and Learn,” which coincides with and covers the release of the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics job report on the first Friday of every month, and a “Deeper Dive,” a mid-month webinar that goes into more detailed topics regarding employment trends for people with disabilities, featuring guest speakers. The next webinar, a “Deeper Dive”, takes place on March 24, 2023 from 12 pm to 1 pm ET on Zoom, with registration for the event now open. Additionally, all previous webinars are archived and available to view online. Follow the links above to register for the upcoming webinar and check out some previous episodes.

March Madness: Vote for Your Favorite Keyboard Shortcut

by Connor Courtien, RDPFS Intern

Whether or not you’re a fan of basketball’s seasonal “madness,” consider joining in the “March Madness" online game to vote for the ultimate champion of keyboard shortcuts. The tournament takes place over six rounds, with Round 1 currently still in progress, ending on March 19, 2023, and gives you the opportunity to see your favorite keyboard shortcut for your screen reader claim victory in a series of head-to-head battles. This activity is being offered through Perkins School for the Blind by Jennifer Soltis, who first implemented this idea last year with five of her students, and is now looking to expand the tournament into a global, online format via a website, which will be updated periodically as the tournament progresses. Currently, this online tournament is intended for intermediate screen reader users, but Soltis also outlined ways that the tournament could be adapted offline for students of all skill levels, such as only using the commands that students suggest, or ones outlined in their IEP (Individualized Education Program) goals. See the links above for more information on the backstory of the tournament, additional ideas for adapting in the classroom, and the schedule for each round of the online tournament, as well as the website to vote in Round 1.

Eric Bridges Appointed as New President and CEO of American Foundation for the Blind

by Connor Courtien, RDPFS Intern

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) has appointed Eric Bridges as their new President and CEO, effective April 12, 2023. As noted in press release on his appointment from PRNewswire, Bridges has over two decades of experience in leading causes related to vision loss. He was a LEGIS Fellow in the U.S. House of Representatives, described by the Brookings Institute as a fellowship in which participants “become an indispensable subject-matter expert for legislators” as they learn the process of policy making and provide their insight on critical issues. Subsequently, he served as an advocate for the American Council of the Blind, playing an instrumental role in passing key legislation, such as the 21st Century Communications & Video Accessibility Act (CVAA), which per the Federal Communications Commission, acted to “increase the access of persons with disabilities to modern communications.” Bridges then continued to forge relationships across industries as the Director of External Relations and Policy, and was able to improve the organization’s revenue, as well as pull them out of a pre-existing deficit. On Bridge’s appointment as President and CEO of the AFB, Board Chair Debbie Dennis said, "We are delighted to bring Eric Bridges to the role of CEO and President of AFB. He brings strong leadership to the organization and a life's passion and commitment to improving the quality of life and equal access for the millions of individuals who are blind or have low vision." For more about the previous career of Eric Bridges, as well as his stated goals for the AFB under his new leadership, check out the link to the press release above.

More on Women and Women’s History Month: Notable Women with Vision Loss

March, Women’s History Month, marks the commemoration and celebration of women who have achieved renown in many fields. Following are a few performing and creative artists, present and past:

Esteemed actor Judi Dench (born in 1934) first revealed her struggles with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in 2012. She acknowledged that she is one of “’thousands and thousands of people all over the world” contending with this condition, the most common cause of vision loss for adults over the age of 50. Since her initial diagnosis, Dench has experienced gradual vision loss, while continuing her work on stage. She has noted that “’I’ve got to teach myself a new way of learning…I’ve realized that I need to know where it is on the page…I’ll teach myself a way…’” Most recently, appearing on “The Graham Norton Show,” Dench explained that “her deteriorating eyesight is making it difficult for her to read scripts” and that “’I need to find a machine that not only teaches me my lines, but also tells me where they appear on the page.’” Read more about Dench and her journey with AMD in the Los Angeles Times article on her deteriorating eyesight.

Country music artist Terri Gibbs has recorded eleven studio albums and “has charted” 13 singles on the Billboard country singles charts between 1980 and 2017. She was born prematurely in 1954, with sight, but lost her vision in an incubator accident, was diagnosed with retrolental fibroplasia [now called retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), according to the National Eye Institute of the National Institutes of Health] and declared blind at six months of age. Gibbs, whose “parents wanted her to be treated no differently from sighted people,” sang and played the piano as a child, attending public school in Augusta, Georgia. Her first single release, “’Somebody’s Knockin,’” was a hit as well as the title of her debut album in 1981. Additional details can be found in a Wikipedia piece on Terri Gibbs.

Contemporary vocalist in contemporary jazz Diane Schuur has received a number of accolades for her work, including two Grammy Awards, for “Best Jazz Vocal Performance,” for “Timeless (1986) and “Diane Schuur and The Count Basie Orchestra” in 1987, and Grammy nominations for several more. She has been blind since her premature birth in 1953, losing her sight due to retinopathy of prematurity (ROP). At the age of three, Schuur was “picking out tunes on (piano) keys with two fingers…,” and, by age six, “was giving regular command performances amid her corduroy jumpers.” Her formal piano study began at the Washington School for the Blind, finishing her studies in public schools and, eventually, studying voice at the University of Puget Sound. Schuur launched her professional career in the Pacific Northwest, eventually expanding her horizons to such performance venues as the Boston Pops, Houston Symphony, the Toledo Jazz Orchestra, and the Philly Pops Orchestra. Learn more at Diane Schuur’s website.

Due to the fact that her mother, Crown Princess Juliana (later Queen of the Netherlands), contracted rubella, also known as German Measles, during pregnancy, Princess Christina of the Netherlands (1947-2019) was born “nearly blind,” although her vision subsequently improved through medical treatment and customized eyeglasses. She pursued a career in music, studying teaching theory in the Netherlands and classical music vocal teaching in Canada. After moving to New York, the Princess taught singing and recorded and released several CDs, in classical and Broadway genre. Later, she completed dance therapist training, eventually sharing her knowledge in dance/sound therapy with people who were blind. Additional details are available in the Wikipedia listing for Princess Christina of the Netherlands.

Impressionist painter Mary Cassatt (1844 – 1926), who “succeeded in what was then a predominantly male profession” is “best known for her representation of women’s experience, with a particular focus on the relationship between mother and child.” At the age of 56, due to cataracts and diabetic retinopathy, Cassatt began experiencing vision problems that impacted her work, switching from oils to pastels, which “demand less precision.” As her vision loss advanced, the “meticulous lines” of her earlier work became “strident, bold strokes of color” and her canvasses grew larger “to accommodate for her loss of acuity.” For more information, read the UK Disability History Month webpage on Mary Cassatt.

“One Heart One Vision:” A Podcast Celebrates Women

Poet Monica Williams, who is blind, shares her story of “turning tragedy into triumph!” during this podcast, airing since March 7, 2023. Williams chronicles her journey, growing up in Florida, speaking about her family, her challenges, and emergence as a poet and grant writer. Her interview can be found on One Heart One Vision, a regular program, hosted by Jovan and Yasheta, who are blind. Their motto, “Just because you’re blind doesn’t mean you can’t have vision,“ underscores the themes of the episodes of their podcast, which cover timely topics and current events. Tune in here to this episode where “The Ladies Kick Off Women’s Empowerment Month with Blind Poet Monica Williams.”

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