Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

RDPFS Resources for Partners May 5, 2023

American Stroke Month

by Connor Courtien, RDPFS Intern

May, American Stroke Month, seeks to raise awareness of the medical emergency and inform Americans about its signs so it can be detected early and complications can be mitigated. Among these complications are several affecting vision, involving eye movement and visual field, with approximately two-thirds of stroke survivors experiencing some vision loss. The particular impact depends on which regions of the brain are affected, but those most directly related to vision are the occipital lobe and the brainstem. Acting as our “vision center,” the occipital lobe makes sense of visual information received, while the brainstem controls eye movement and helps us identify objects. Vision-related conditions that can emerge after a stroke include nystagmus, causing rapid horizontal or vertical eye movement; scotoma, which is a blind spot in one’s visual field; and spatial inattention, where visual information is received properly by the eye, but isn’t processed by the brain. In order to identify a stroke as early as possible, the American Stroke Association, provides F.A.S.T., standing for Face Drooping, Arm Weakness, Speech Difficulty, and Time to Call 911. By working on a treatment plan with the appropriate specialist, an optometrist, ophthalmologist, neuro-ophthalmologist, or neuro-optometrist, some visual issues can improve over time and all can be managed with adaptations. For additional information, check out the website from the American Stroke Association. To read more about the vision-related issues caused by stroke, read this article from Healthline, Vision Loss After Stroke: Why It Happens, How to Cope With It.

Celebrating Mother’s Day

As this year’s celebration of the mothers in our lives approaches, here are some card and gift ideas to consider for those who are visually impaired:

Shadows in the Dark, one of the “largest providers of braille greeting cards,” produces cards for Mother’s Day, available for $1.59 each. The company was founded by Philip W. Myers in 1996, who is visually impaired and envisioned going into business with a friend who was blind (and later passed away) to provide a “special service for those who are blind or visually impaired.” A variety of gift items as well as braille business, playing and learning cards, and more are available. For additional information, visit the website for Shadows in the Dark: Braille Cards/Services & Gifts.

The Braille Superstore offers cards with messages ranging from “More Smiles” to “Thanking You” to “Loving Thoughts,” to humorous messages, and more. Each can be customized in braille with personal text and pictures and purchased for $7.95. They also have gifts, such as talking watches and clocks, braille timepieces, housewares, braille keychains, charms, and board and card games. Check out their Mother's Day Cards for the Blind and Future Aids: Today's Products.

And be sure to review additional sources listed in previous issues of this Bulletin for Mother's Day Gift Ideas.

Online Meditation Session on May 11, 2023: “The Secret To A Peaceful Life”

Celebrate National Meditation Month with this free, virtual “Pop Up Online Meditation Session,” on May 11, 2023 from 4 to 5:30 pm ET. Sponsored by the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Books Library of The New York Public Library (NYPL), the session is hosted by Dr. Andrew Vidich, educator and co-founder of The Interfaith Council, who has many years of meditation experience. In addition to alleviating stress, meditation can “unlock the door to a life of improved physical and emotional wellbeing.” To find out more and register, visit the NYPL listing for Online Virtual Meditation: The Secret To A Peaceful Life. You can also register by calling 212-206-5400 extension 2, or emailing [email protected].

Virtual Programs from Vision Organizations

Here are a few more upcoming online programs:

Future In Sight’s workshops include:

On May 10, 2023, from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm ET, the BLAST Tech Workshop: Accessible Fun Games will offer adults the opportunity to learn more about many accessible game apps currently available, such as RS Games and Dice World. Delve into the “fun side of technology” and register for this session by visiting the webpage for Accessible Fun Games.

On May 11, 2023 from 7 to 8 pm ET, adults and youth can find out about The Business of Being Blind: (and) Meet Christy Havey. Havey, a licensed massage therapist who is visually impaired due to glaucoma, will focus on relaxation and therapeutic techniques. She will share her career journey and “what it takes to become a successful massage therapist with vision loss.” For more information and to register, read the description about The Business of Being Blind.

On May 24, 2023 from 10:30 am to 12:30 pm ET, a BLAST Tech Workshop “All About the Etsy App” will help adults navigate Etsy to find its personalized or handcrafted items. Whether you’d like to learn how to use the app or sell products, “discovering the accessibility of Etsy is for you!” Find out more and register here for “All About the Etsy App.”

For additional information about these and other events, visit Future In Sight's Calendar.

The Prevention of Blindness Society of Metropolitan Washington’s offerings include:

On May 9, 2023 from 11:30 am to 12:30 pm ET, a program will commemorate Healthy Vision Month with speaker Mazin Eisarrag, MD from MedStar Washington Hospital Center. Find out more and get the Zoom link here for Healthy Vision Month.

On May 16, 2023 from 1 to 2 pm ET, Tech Talk Tuesday: Survival Braille will cover the basics for navigating community settings, such as bathrooms and elevators. While learning the entire braille language “may sound daunting,” learning more about these features can be useful. Find out more here about Tech Talk Tuesday: Survival Braille.

On May 17, 2023 from 11 am to 12:30 pm ET, join in a Low Vision Town Hall—(and) Learn About Vision Aware, the online platform featuring helpful articles, resources, and tips from experts and others with vision loss. Kathryn Frederick, CPACC, VisionAware Digital Content Manager, will share their offerings. Additional details and the link are available here for the Low Vision Town Hall about Vision Aware.

To register for these events, please call 301-951-4444. For more information about these and other programs, visit the Prevention of Blindness of Metropolitan Washington webpage on Low Vision Resource and Support Group Events.

“Empowering Digital Inclusion:” Leadership Conference Highlights

by Daniel Parker, former RDPFS Intern

The American Foundation for the Blind (AFB) 2023 Leadership Conference, held from April 19 to 21, 2023, featured a wide range of speakers, plenary sessions, panel discussions, breakout rooms and an ideathon, all centered on the theme of empowering digital inclusion. Their Helen Keller Achievement Awards, covered separately in this Bulletin, kicked off the event on April 19th. On the 20th, the keynote was delivered by Sheri Wells-Jensen, Ph.D., who serves on the leadership committee of AstroAccess, “a nonprofit working with the space industry to set the standards for access to outer space for disabled flyers.” The main takeaway from her presentation was ‘“If we’re in coalition with people who aren’t like us, we can do unexpected things and go to unexpected places.’” A panel followed on policy issues surrounding digital inclusion. Moderated by Sarah Malaier, AFB’s senior advisor for Public Policy and Research, panelists were disability rights attorney John Wodatch, who participated in writing Section 504 and regulations for Titles II and III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); Stephanie Enyart, Ph.D., Chief Public Policy and Research Officer for the AFB; and Day Al-Mohamed, former White House Director of Disability Policy. The day also included the Ideathon and breakout sessions concerning accessible navigation, inclusive education, mentorship and apprenticeship, audio description, and universal design in digital inclusion.

The second day’s panel discussed “Successful Talent Acquisition: Including People who are Blind in the Post-COVID Digital Age.” Panelists included Michelle Witman, Co-founder of Asset Based Consulting; Ross Barchacky, Director of Partnership at Inclusively; Megan Williams, senior vice president of Human Resources at , AAA - The Auto Club Group; Dani Landolt, chief marketing officer, at Leader Dogs for the Blind; and Tim Tegge, executive director, The Site Center of Northwest Ohio. Panelists suggested steps organizations can take to improve inclusion and accessibility, including asking what employees need, having honest conversations, reaching out to communities, and doing extensive research. Landolt summed up the message: “Be intentional, because being inclusive and accessible doesn’t happen by accident.” Breakout sessions delved into accessible healthcare products, technology in transportation, accessibility in education and employment, results from an AFB digital inclusion study, and racial equity policies and financial health tips from JP Morgan Chase.

Rounding out Day Two, the AFB Awards ceremony presented the Migel Medal, the Llura Gund Leadership Award, and the Corinne Kirchner Research Award. Migel Medal recipients were Nancy D. Miller, LMSW, Executive Director and CEO of VISIONS Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, an RDPFS grantee organization; and the late Scott Labarr, National General Counsel for the National Federation of the Blind (NFB). The presentation honored Miller’s work leading VISIONS and contributing to the overall BVI (blind and visually impaired) community nationwide. Labarr worked for many years on pressing legal and legislative issues. Llura Gund Award recipient Ken Meaker, “established his own professional and life coaching consultancy practice and has made significant leaps toward raising public awareness of the potential that can be harnessed by people who are blind or have low vision.” Receiving the Corinne Kirchner Award for excellence in scholarly research was José-Alain Sahel, M.D., Chair of Ophthalmology at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

You can find more information about this event at the 2023 AFB Leadership Conference website.

Assistive Technology Conference Highlights Part One: “The State of Play: The Intersection of Video Games and People with Disabilities”

by Connor Courtien, RDPFS Intern

The California State University, Northridge (CSUN) Assistive Technology Conference, the largest meeting of its kind in the world, serves as a forum for experts in the field to share latest developments and insights to improve accessibility. In a talk given at the 2023 conference in March, Andy Wu and Mark Barlet from AbleGamers, a nonprofit group, discussed their work in improving accessibility across the video game industry and noted where gaps remain. Here are highlights:

Bartlet discussed the role of games in our world, stating that “Games are important for society, but they’re uniquely important for those with disabilities,” regarding the power of games in facilitating experiences not available in a person’s physical space. Speaking about the outlook for accessibility, he added “My profoundly visually-impaired friends have largely been left out of gaming...(Due to) the rise of spatial audio… we’re seeing game companies really start focusing on these auditory-scapes, and these adaptations are allowing more and more profoundly visually-impaired people to enjoy games.” Progress has been made with the advent of Accessible Player Experiences (APX), which follow specific design patterns to build video games with accessibility in mind from the ground up. Created through research done in part by AbleGamers, these design patterns have been used in many modern games. God of War Ragnarök, an example Barlet cited, has been widely acclaimed for its accessibility features and used APX design in its development. More on APX can be found here. Wu further explained that “We view AbleGamers as a combination of being able to use a game’s settings and the hardware to support a person.” He described their Peer Counseling program, where professionals, all of whom identify as having a disability, build custom controllers and assistive technology to meet an individual’s gaming needs. Barlet explained that “Peer, for us, is a disabled player helping another disabled player.”

You can view the full talk on YouTube, and read more about AbleGamers on their website.

Assistive Conference Highlights Part Two: “FED Talk: Accessibility with the Access Board and GSA”

by Connor Courtien, RDPFS Intern

Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires that all federal government information and communication technologies remain accessible, explaining precisely what this covers. Timothy Creagan and Kathy Eng from the U.S. Access Board, as well as Michael Horton and Andrew Nielson from the General Services Administration (GSA), gave a comprehensive presentation about this aat the CSUN Assistive Technology Conference in March. Here are highlights:

The presenters noted that Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Section 508 is defined as “Information technology and other equipment, systems, technologies, or processes, for which the principal function is the creation, manipulation, storage, display, receipt, or transmission of electronic data and information, as well as any associated content.” Some examples are computers, kiosks, websites, and digital documents. Everything in this category must be fully accessible. Creagan cited an example, describing a significant case in the D.C. Circuit Court, Jahinnslerth Orozco v. Merrick Garland, where Orozco, a blind employee of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), filed a complaint seeking injunctive action against the FBI for inaccessible software he had to use in his job duties. This was initially thrown out by the court. “It was a denial of his right to receive services,” said Creagan. Fortunately, Orozco successfully appealed under Section 508. Nielson further explained that “You simply can’t have diversity, equity and inclusion without accessibility,” discussing President Biden’s Executive Order 14035 on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Accessibility in the Federal Workforce. This order didn’t offer anything beyond existing regulations, but “It did state the intent for the executive government to become a model employer for people with disabilities,” according to Nielsen. Eng talked about the impact of the pandemic and the identification of accessibility issues with Microsoft Teams, noting that “We have a relationship with Microsoft where we’re able to connect with their essential developers and representatives to relay where all of these difficulties were. We shared user experiences, difficulties from the accessibility standpoint.” Eng also shared a resource, offered here, on considerations for accessible remote meetings by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). To facilitate accessibility, an ICT Testing Baseline for Web, available here has been developed. Co-owned by the S. Access Board and GSA, it covers procedures to make sure a website is Section 508 compliant. More baselines for other forms of ICT are in development.

More details are covered in the full presentation on YouTube.

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